Blatherings

Elementary OS | Review From an openSUSE User

There are some Linux distributions that have a wide audience and there are others that focus in on a specific customer or user. If I were asked to describe who I think ElementaryOS is targeting, I would certainly say, not me. The reason being, ElementaryOS goes for a particular look and they have a specific design for how they intend that you use the interface. Straying from the interface guideline is not recommended. I reviewed this distribution as a part of the BigDaddyLinux Live Challenge.

This is my biased review as an openSUSE Tumbleweed, Plasma Desktop user that values shaping his environment to suit his needs. Bottom Line Up Front, ElementaryOS has a clear design intent with a goal on user experience. It is a principled project that has a vision of what a human to machine interface should be and how applications should also interact and present information to the user. These guidelines, however clean they may be, are not to my liking. Although I do appreciate the work and the stubborn adherence to an ideal it does not agree with me. I prefer an interface that I can make my own and shape to my needs as they change. ElementaryOS is far too rigid and the lack of system tray makes it a non-starter and a lack of minimize button makes it annoying. There is not dark theme (but it is coming) and no option for double-click. It is almost as if Qt based applications were not even a secondary or tertiary consideration so applications that I must use are encumbered. All that said, this is me, I would never steer you away from trying ElementaryOS. I have my requirements and they may not be the same as yours.

Installation

I installed ElementaryOS in VM and on actual hardware. Most of my time was on actual hardware but I also wanted to test it in VM so for the demonstration of a simple installation. If you want anything more complex, I will not be the one to demonstrate it. What I will tell you is that setting up is… elementary.

When you start the media, you are given two options, right out of the gate. I appreciate that you can “try or buy” it and not have to start a mandatory live session. Your next task is to set the keyboard layout.

Next you are requested your preference on downloading updates and to install third party repositories. I select both because I prefer having my system up to date and third party repositories generally pull in all that multimedia goodness required for a “full-featured” desktop experience.

Quite nicely, you are given a “sanity check” before beginning the installation process. It tells you the consequences of your actions. For this VM installation, not a big deal but putting it on the test hardware, this is more important as I am not interested in blowing away the data on my home partition that moves from distro to distro.

Next will be your user preference and from what I can determine, no root preference. Though, it is typical in Ubuntu land to rely exclusively on the “sudo” for any root level actions. Both ways have their positives and negatives.

The installation process continues, surprisingly without any of the typical distribution specific propaganda. Once complete, you are asked to remove the media and and press any key to restart the system. This process is pretty quick, but of course, your results are dependent on your hardware performance.

That’s all there is to it. It’s really very easy and I will refrain from making another “Elementary” joke.

First Run and Impressions

There was much hype around the login screen, so I was expecting something pretty spectacular. I guess, I was, yet again a victim of they hype-train as I didn’t really see anything particularly exciting about the login screen.

I know that each user tile is representational of the user’s session and maybe that is really cool for some but I didn’t see the grand appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the unique touch but it doesn’t exactly do anything for me. I’ll chalk that up to me just not getting it… whatever “it” is.

In order to get going with Elementary, I decided to install my needed applications. Installing Telegram, I was greeted with a warning about this application being “non-curated” and may give you problems. Specifically, that it may not receive bug fix or feature updates and may access or change system or personal files without permission. When actually running it, the version was out of date as well which was a bit annoying.

I am going to try to stay open minded here but this warning just seems a bit over the top. The whole reason for open source software is that the code can be audited by the community and if there are issues, it would be taken care of and the idea of having software in official repositories of these distributions is in a way an honor and usually go through some kind of vetting process. At least, on openSUSE they do and I can look at the change log and see who has last touched it. I tend to trust members of the [openSUSE] community anyway. If I were more involved with the Ubuntu world, I would tend to trust that community in the same way so I sort of feel like this is a bit insulting.

It should also be noted that due to the lack of dark theme in Elementary, my dark theme preference in Telegram looks a bit odd juxtaposed to the light Elementary OS theme. It should also be noted that this version is far behind too at 1.2.17. Not sure if that is due to it being on an Ubuntu LTS or not. It works so I can’t complain much.

Multiple screens on Elementary works pretty well. No complaints there. I am grateful that the second screen doesn’t get the top bar as well as the the dock along the bottom.

Obviously, the screens are of different size and resolution.

I do appreciate that the firewall configuration tool is available by default. It is, however, disappointing that it is not activated by default. I do realize that makes it less friendly to configure network devices for normal users but I’d rather the complaint be concerning lack of ease in connecting to things as opposed to your machine getting compromised.

In my time of using Elementary to do some of the tasks I set out to do, I needed to download and use an AppImage of xlights. This was my first practical usage of the file manager. To make the file executable, it was as easy as a right-click and setting the permissions. Tho, the file name font excessively large for the size of the dialogue box so it looked a bit rough.

The lack of double-click made for some other usability issues. I inadvertently launched more than one instance of xlights. I also want to note that unlike Plasma, I didn’t get an automatic option to launch from the menu (or krunner) after launching xlights once in Elementary. Not really a big deal, but it is yet another reason why Plasma makes life very convenient. Elementary also didn’t give me an easy way to add a menu entry either, so that was unfortunate. Really, there wasn’t any way to, by default, add this AppImage in a convenient manner to my desktop, outside of navigating to it each time.

I found it rather disappointing that I was not able to change the single-click to double-click in Elementary. There is an option to change the double-click speed but not to actually employ double-click. No idea about this discrepancy but none the less, this is not what I would call a positive in the usability experience.

I was very happy about the ease of adding a network printer to ElementaryOS. It was an incredibly easy and straight forward process.

To prevent from dragging this on too long, I will only mention a few other things. Installation of another browser, outside of Epiphany is a must. I, of course, went with Firefox. The main reason, I was unable to stream media from my local Emby server or Netflix. I didn’t look into the reasoning for its difficulty with multimedia but it’s there.

The process of using Flatpaks on Elementary was also less than ideal, from my perspective. The “sideload” process was not my favorite. I wish it was more like other distros but instead it is a very age-old Windows style of downloading and installer and running it. I can see that it can be easier for some users but I would prefer just using the terminal or even Discover on Plasma.

This process does work but the application didn’t appear in the Applications menu until after I restarted the user session. That is also an unfortunate user experience hit but it isn’t the end of the world either. Just another little papercut.

It should also be noted that I did have some issues getting Syncthing to work but once I was able to get it to connect once, the first time, it was smooth sailing from there. Adding Syncthing to the Start up process was as easy as searching for “Start Up” in the Applications Menu and adding the entry.

The biggest usability hit that basically makes ElementaryOS… not usable… for me is the lack of a system tray. I have heard the reasons for not having one but I think they are all rubbish. Is it a potentially dated method? Perhaps but I happen to really like the system tray. It is such a fantastic place to keep track of the applications running in the background. The lack of system tray on Elementary makes using Discord less than stellar, combine that with the lack of minimize button makes using some applications unenjoyable.

Like

Although I didn’t really address it, a nice feature of ElementaryOS is the “Do Not Disturb” feature. If you are doing something, like, say, live streaming, recording audio or perhaps in a meeting giving a presentation, it’s nice to have a “do not disturb” feature to just shut off the notifications. That is well done.

The App Center gives this great ability to pay for applications to support developers. I am glad that ElementaryOS has pioneered this sort of business model and I hope that this will propagate outside of just the ElementaryOS ecosystem. The ability to easy contribute to an open source project is a fantastic thing.

The simple, almost pre-school like interface. Now, I just ragged on the interface for a bit but I do want to say that this interface is incredibly simple and easy to get along with for those that just don’t need the controls.

Don’t Like

It is often touted that ElementaryOS is the nicest looking or highest polished desktop. I can see why people say that but I don’t agree with that statement at all. There are far too many paper-cut issues that negatively affect usability of the system. It’s the little things like lack of double-click, lack of system tray, lack of menu editing function, menu entries not automatically populating from Snaps and Flapak unless you restart the session, AppImages you launch are not remembered as a recent application and with the lack of menu editing functionality, combined with the inability to add links to applications on your desktop just makes it frustrating.

I will say, there could be a way to fix all these things but that requires doing some digging and seeing how other people fixed ElementaryOS to make it more functional. You can install MenuLibre or AppEditor. Here is an article on how to fix this.

Firefox not installed by default, Epiphany does not have feature parity with Firefox. I know that Epiphany fits the look better but it is just a subpar web browser. Many distros will install Firefox by default and that would be preferred. The main issue I had was my inability stream video content on Epiphany from Emby server. This is quite surprising because every feature reduced browser I use can stream video content.

The dock doesn’t display additional windows when there is more than one of the same application. For instance, if you have more than one full screen window open, like Firefox, a click on the dock button opens all the instances up. In order to select which instance, you have to right-click and select it. Plasma has a far more sensible tool that allows you to select the appropriate. Another option would be some kind of hover pop up that would show you your options. Essentially, the dock is very lacking so I don’t care for it.

Lack of minimize button is somewhat aggravating. Sure, I can click on the dock button but that time to search for the appropriate icon is far slower than just clicking the minimize button on the corner of the window. Super+H is a good alternative but that keystroke does take my hands off of the mouse, which again slows me down. Alt+Tab is an incredibly linear way of getting to other applications. It wouldn’t clutter the window at all to add the feature.

Flatpak setup is not what I would consider ideal. The workflow to download a .flatpakref and “sideload” is fine but it would be nice if they just had the Flathub activated by a flick of a switch. I see that it WORKS but it is just more frustrating to use than not. It could be a me problem but I have seen better solutions implemented elsewhere. I will concede that if this is the better way to do it I still don’t like that the Flatpak for Syncthing GTK is fairly out of date and has one of the irritating multiple entries bug going for it. This version of Syncthing’s auto discover on the network was not working either. That is not a ding on ElementaryOS.ElementaryOS Home Page

Filemanger is a bit anemic. It is incredibly basic and doesn’t have some of the nice features you would see on other file managers like Dolphin, specifically split view so you can see two directories side by side. The work around is to use the tiling feature of ElementaryOS and put two file managers beside one another but that is also less than ideal. The Properties tool has the font size so large that the name is unreadable. So, that needs some work too.

Final Thoughts

Although I have a long list of things I do not like about ElementaryOS, it is really not a bad experience. There just happen to be a lot of paper cuts and the lack of built in ability to tweak the issues. Many, many desktop environments may have these small paper cut issues that gnaw at you but they also give you the ability to smooth them out by giving you access to tools to do it. I am sure, with enough time and effort, installing the right tools and tweak packages, I could have fixed all the irritations that I had with the interface. However, it is quite clear, that is not what the designers want you to do. They want you to not have certain features to fit their vision. The issue is, as I see it, ElementaryOS is targeted for those that like a specific way to work with their computer. Since I am unwilling to give up the efficiencies provided by Plasma, Elementary OS does not fit. It is too far of a step back in time for me to be comfortable here.

Keep in mind, this is my opinion. These are my irritations and they may all be nonsense to you. I would never discourage you from trying ElementaryOS. It is unique in its style and flair with an incredibly stubborn design intent and I don’t think that should change their course at all. Whatever it is that they are trying to accomplish, I hope that they achieve those goals. Computers are supposed to be personal and developers are making it personal, as they see fit.

I do think you should give ElementaryOS a spin, at least in a VM, maybe on a spare laptop you have laying around. See what you like about it or don’t like about it. If you think my observations and impressions are wrong, feel free to leave a comment or send an email. I only spent a couple weeks on ElementaryOS so there is a lot I don’t know. I will not continue to run it, for the time being. I will certainly give it a try again in the future.

References

ElementaryOS Home Page
How to Edit Start Menu Items on ElementaryOS

Noodlings | Smoking a Turkey not my Linux Powered Lights

Life gets in the way of my nerding. I’d apologize but I don’t exactly see me as being accountable since this is not exactly a source of income for me. So, I’ll do these as much and as often as I can.

The 9th Noodling strolling in unfashionably late to a party

Smoking a Thanksgiving Turkey

Bought a turkey to smoke for Thanksgiving. I had to buy a 5 gallon bucket to brine the thing in. Using a basic brine of brown sugar and salt. I realized that I don’t have a large enough smoker to hold the turkey whole so my solution is to cut it in half so that I can put it on two of the racks.

What I learned

  • My smoker thermometer is probably wrong
  • I would have been wise to swap the halves of the bird sometime through the smoking process
  • I used to much wood so it was a bit too smokey tasting
  • Those turkey bones made for some great post-Thanksgiving soup
  • Next turkey should be a bit smaller or just do a couple chickens instead
  • What would be really great is to have a smoker that has some sensors like temperature, humidity, particulate matter and a couple probes to put in various places in the meat so that I can get better data on the cooking process

Linux Powered Christmas Lights

I have wanted to some kind of computer controlled Christmas lights since I first saw this light display on YouTube to the tune from the Trans-Siberian Orchastra, “Wizards of Winter.” Since then, this has been something I wanted to do. This was the year that I finally did it and this is what I used.

  • BeagleBone Black rev C
  • Kulp Lights F8-B “Cape” that controls the pixel lights
    • 8 local ports for strings of lights
    • Each string can have approximately 700 pixels
    • Multiple expansion options
  • Pixel2Things AC board to power the traditional AC strings of lights and the blow up Santa and Painfully bright White Christmas tree
  • 12v 30Amp Power supply
  • ABS Electrical Junction box enclosure
  • 10 Pair of Ray Wu connectors to build extension cables and to wire into the F8-B
  • 200 ft of 18 AWG 3 conductor cable to build extension cables
  • 500 ft of 18 AWG 2 conductor cable for power injection, although, I didn’t end up needing it.
  • 8, two conductor extension cords from the hardware store for the Pixel2Things AC devices, the traditional department store lights and the blow up Santa
  • 1, 40 ft, 3 conductor extension cord for powering the control box and for extra wire as needed

Light Setup

  • Currently running 1148 pixels totaling 3444 light channels
  • xlights software AppImage which works very well in openSUSE. Using it not tied to music but just as an animation.

The Plan

Turning some of my “Christmas Lights” into all the holidays lights.

Next year I will be building some props, candy canes, arches and Christmas trees, add a low powered FM transmitter to do light shows to music but not so much that my neighbors will want to burn my house down

BDLL Follow Up

Working through evaluating the Ubuntu 19.10 releases. I’m impressed with the Ubuntu Proper release. It is a great project that has so many high quality derivatives.

Ubuntu Proper (GNOME)

I am going to just say that Ubuntu has my favorite expression of GNOME. The Competitive advantage of Ubuntu GNOME is the clean experience and the additional features that just make sense for a typical desktop user

Ubuntu MATE

A solid experience and it just doesn’t disappoint. You can choose between the different desktop paradigms of Windows Like, Mac Like, and Unity Like. It’s such a smart Desktop and frankly I think this should be the Ubuntu Proper experience, but that is my opinion.

Lubuntu

The LXQt desktop with the best out of box polish. There are some other things I would polish out on it, specifically, to drop openbox as the window manager and use Kwin but that is easily done for any user. In fact, I did a little write up on it.

Kubuntu

A great Plasma desktop experience and although it has some really great defaults, I still prefer some of the other integration better on openSUSE. Specifically that Firefox uses the Plasma file dialog box instead of the clunky GTK version. Since the default layout is not a big deal to me as that is easily changed and I have been doing so since the KDE 3 days, there isn’t a great reason to choose Kubuntu over an openSUSE Plasma. However, I will say, it is my favorite of the Ubuntu flavors. They just happen to do Plasma justice and for someone new to Linux that wants a premium Linux experience, this would be a candidate to send them there.

Xubuntu

Xfce based Ubuntu. I didn’t actually try it but since I know what I am getting with Ubuntu and I know what I am getting with Xfce, you just can’t go wrong with it. For those that like the Xfce experience and want to try their hand in the Ubuntu world, this is a good place to go.

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshot Releases

  • Mesa 19.2.4 bug fixes from 19.2.3
  • Linux kernel 5.3.12
  • Tumbleweed gets a new OpenSSH Version
  • KDE Plasma 5.17.3 buxfix update fixed Mouse KCM acceleration profile on X11. I did notice that there were mouse issues shortly after that announcement with GNOME’s mouse issues.
  • kcalendarcore package update with KDE Frameworks 5.63.0
  • YaST Packages updated
  • Firefox 70
  • Libvirt 5.9.0
  • ALSA 1.2.1.1 dropped patches and fixed regressions for the UCM parcer
  • Update of ModemManger 1.12.0, a D-BUS-activated daemon that controls mobile broadband devices and connections. That update had several improvements and changes to include adding support for Mobile Station Based Assisted-GPS in addition to Mobile Station Assisted-GPS.
  • firewalld 0.7.2 added 15 new service definitions and provided a new option, FlushAllOnReload in firewalld.conf

There was also an email from the Tumbleweed release manager, Dominique Leuenberger that a build fail notification for the python-numba package in openSUSE Factory has not been addressed for the past four weeks and unless somebody steps up and submits fixes, the python-numba will be removed.

Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer give 20191203 a stable score of 95; 20121206 Stable 98; 20121207 Stable 99

openSUSE Board Elections

Two seats are open for election on the openSUSE Board

References

KulpLights.com
Pixel2things.com
xlights
Wizards of Winter Christmas Light Display 2004
Tumbleweed Snapshots from news.opensuse.org
openSUSE Board election 2019-2020 – Call for Nominations, Applications

Data Recovery from IDE (PATA) Drive

I am not one to turn up my nose to old technology and I typically am excited about anything a little bit older or vintage to explore. In fact, I am generally excited to take a screwdriver to just about any piece of technology out there. I will say, there has been a recent exception.

I was brought a computer to extract some pictures and such off of it to put on a flash drive. It is a Pentium 4 Compaq which means it is a 32 bit machine. I am sure hasn’t been turned on in a long time. I am guessing 6 years or greater. I do remember setting this computer up years ago with openSUSE Linux but I didn’t have the root password for it. Since there was some sort of file system error that fsck wouldn’t correct and I didn’t have root access either, so that made it problematic as well. If you are thinking it was a BTRFS problem, you are thinking wrong. It was XFS that had an issue as this was before openSUSE started using BTRFS on root.

I took the side panel off of the machine to get the drive out, but try as I might, I was not able to remove the drive from the inside. There are fasteners in the side of the drive that are not accessible but in a kind of track.

So, I decided, I would take it out of the front of the machine. after some prodding and probing, I was able to get the face of this derelict machine off and finally be able to remove the thing. The 3.5″ PATA (IDE) drive sits right below the 3.5″ floppy drive. Removal of the drive was now trivial. The plastic retainers just had to be pressed on the side of the drive enclosure and the drive slid neatly out of the front of the machine.

I had to dig into my storage bin of hard drive related components and I pulled out an IDE to USB adapter. The first one didn’t work, nor did the second, the last one I pulled out was able to actually read the IDE drive and I don’t have any idea why this was a problem. I have used the adapters for years recovering data from these old drives, however, the last time I did such a thing was 2012.

Pulling the contents of the data from the drive took an incredibly long time, much longer than I expected. Transferring 74.1 GiB of data over a PATA interface with a maximum theoretical speed of 133 MB/s really demonstrated how spoiled I have become with SATA drives and SSDs. I walked away and worked on other things due to my lack of patience so the actual time it took is unknown to me. I suppose I could do the calculations…

Using this site here, Calctool.org, it tells me that it could have taken no less than 70.8 minutes. That is probably about right.

After I transferred all the data locally, I exported the pictures and such to three USB flash drives to be used on whatever computer they wish. The question remains, what do I do with this machine? I could put something 32-bit on there just to see how it would work but the question is, which one? The top contenders for me are openSUSE, MX Linux, BunsenLabs and PuppyLinux (some variant). Maybe I’ll let one of my kids do it as a learning exercise.

Final Thoughts

I can seldom resist the urge to play with technology, it is a weakness. Basically, as long as the request isn’t, “can you install a non-Linux operating system on it” I am all about it. Recovering data can be a fun project, although, admittedly, this was less fun than other machines due to the obstacles in removing the hard drive

I find it remarkable how fast the years of tech seems to be flying by. It seems like only yesterday that PATA (IDE) was the standard on everything and I didn’t have any complaints about disk speed when it was the standard. Now, using that fifteen or more year old drive, just for the process of removing the data, was so much slower than what I remember, or maybe I am becoming less tolerant of waiting for my technology. Either way, as much as I like vintage tech, I do appreciate many of the new standards, like SATA, because not only is it faster but has a more robust connector… and the more I look at it, I see how it resembles the edge connectors of old.

It is also worth noting that the transfer speeds of PATA drives theoretical maximums is slower than what many have as an internet connection speed. Something to think about.

References

CalcTool.org

Broken Headband on Bluetooth Headphones | Repair Instead of Replace

I purchased a medium of the road Bluedio headset that I have been using in both Bluetooth and wired modes. It’s pretty decent and they fit my head well. Unfortunately, my Magilla Guerrilla handling of it I snapped the headband. I didn’t think I was being rough with it but I do have a track record of such things. The break was on the left side near the slide out adjustment and although the set was still wearable, it felt like one ear cushion loose enough that it would slap the side of my head at every turn.

I had three choices, buy new headphones, deal with it and get used to the gentle paddling of my left ear or lastly, fix it and see if I can return it to an acceptable, usable condition. The paddling was completely unacceptable to live with and the the headphones would no longer fit snugly to my head so this option was ruled out. The option to buy something new was also out. My budget had already been allocated and I am not interested in getting new hardware when these were still electronically functional. Why wouldn’t I at least attempt a repair?

The padded headband was well stitched together in such a way that the stitching was easy to delicately remove. This exposed the poly-carbonate (I am assuming) structuring beneath.

Looking at it, the fix wouldn’t be difficult at all to do it, with the right combination of adhesive chemicals: Loctite 444 Ethyl cyanoacrylate liquid adhesive along with Loctite SF 7452 cure-speed accelerator for the aforementioned adhesive.

The nice thing about the accelerator (a trick I learned at work), you can add adhesive and immediately follow it with the accelerator to layer on material and consequently, greatly increase the strength. This was a technique demonstrated when I fixed my broken Porter-Cable Drill some time ago.

Just a few minutes of gluing and applying the celebrator, had extended the life of this headphone set. Would a normal upgrade to something new and better? Probably but that is just not how I roll. I can’t bring myself to toss out something that is easily repaired. I have yet to sew the padded headband back together but I am no longer getting paddled by the ear pad and when I do handstands, they don’t fall off of my head.

This is not an advertisement for Henkel but fixing toys or equipment is easily accessible to just about anyone as long as you have these two chemicals. It opens up a whole new world of fixing possibilities. I have seen YouTube content creators struggle with gluing broken bits together, clamping them for hours at a time when the job can be done in a fraction of the time. Sure, these are not the cheapest of products but they are extremely effective and drastically reduces the likelihood of your project ending in frustration.

References

Loctite 444
Loctite SF7452

Ubuntu 19.10 | Review from an openSUSE User

Ubuntu is, without any dispute, the most prolific Linux distribution today. You can look at any metric and you will see that Ubuntu is number one. How did they rise to this level? I can only speculate, perhaps it has to do with the charismatic and enthusiastic visionary of Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth that made Linux more approachable and attractive by the masses. Regardless, Canonical does a great job with Ubuntu. Despite any of the controversies or blunders the company makes, they are risk takers and regardless of what distribution you use, it should be applauded.

As part of the BigDaddyLinux Live challenge, we are testing the various Ubuntu flavors but for this article, I am going to focus on Ubuntu Proper, the mainline from which all the other flavors are derived. At one time, Ubuntu had their own desktop, Unity, of which they have discontinued development and now use GNOME as their core desktop.

This is my admittedly biased review of Ubuntu (Proper) as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user that prefers Plasma to all other desktops. It should also be clear that I am not a fan of GNOME at all and to use it is an absolute chore to use for me. Bottom Line Up Front, Ubuntu is pretty great and I would feel good about giving it to anyone. Regardless of my bias and preferences, Ubuntu is just a great, rock solid distribution that is a bit heaver on resources than I like but if you run a reasonably modern system, this is not an issue what so ever. If you haven’t tried Ubuntu, which would be odd that a Linux user hasn’t, or if you haven’t tried it in a while and have that restless itch, Ubuntu is worth taking around the block and maybe even on the highway to stretch it’s legs a bit.

Feel free to bail here.

Installation

One thing I can say about Ubuntu without any reservation is that it is incredibly easy to install, especially when you have a fairly straight forward installation. When the ISO boots up, you can “Try or Buy” as it were and since I don’t see a whole lot of use with a VM in just trying it without the installation process, I wanted to Install Ubuntu. The first decision is to set your keyboard layout.

The next in a line of easy decisions to make is to set your preferences for Updates and additional software. For my purposes, testing an installation, I like to see what software they bundle with the distribution. I am finding more often than not that distributions seem to be skimping out on basic computing software. It amuses me continually how people clammer for a minimal installations, especially on a desktop system where you need basic installation but maybe I don’t get it and am not Linux-ing correctly. I also selected to download updates and to install third-party software. This is one feature I do like about Ubuntu. Although adding such things in openSUSE isn’t complicated, clicking one checkbox is by far much simpler. The next page is to instruct the installer how you would like to utilize your disks and before you continue, a final sanity check will take place.

Your location in the world will be required as well as your name, computer name and if you would like to log in automatically or require a password to log in. For a VM and how I am using it, an Automatic login would not be an issue but I still chose to require a password to log in.

The installation will commence and very nicely, you can watch the details scroll by as you watch the fun highlights of the distribution like you would your uncle Fred’s vacation Slideshow during a family reunion…

The installation doesn’t take long and when complete, just a quick reboot for a fresh and exciting Ubuntu Proper experience was unleashed.

First Run and Impressions

The Ubuntu log in screen is simple and elegant with a purple field, white writing and a single user log in selection. There is nothing to detract your eyes away from the mission at hand, log in. Simple elegance.

Your first time logging into the system you are given four pages of initial preferences. You would start off with setting up any online accounts you have. For my case, I am not going to use those. Next will be an option to help improve Ubuntu. This is a nice feature and although I am a bit dubious about having anything “phone home” I am absolutely in favor of letting distribution creators know any information to help them improve the product.

Next is to set allow applications to determine your geographic location and lastly you are ready to go with some recommended applications to try out with a button to get to the Ubuntu “Software” application.

After the short guided setup, you are left with a very pleasant and release-unique desktop with a great wallpaper. I am also pleased to see you can indeed have icons on your desktop. Well done Canonical!

Next, I just wanted to click around and interact with the desktop. Just see how Ubuntu Proper does the basics like the applications menu, the system menu that contains the network, sound & session actions and the Activities features.

This is totally a personal preference thing and completely opinionated but I kind of don’t like that three basic desktop functions in different corners of the screen. I have only tested this on a single desktop VM but I can’t help but wonder how this would feel to work with on a multi screen setup. It would be annoying to have to go to different screens to get to those bits and it would also be annoying to have the title bar on all the screens. That is certainly worth further investigation.

The software center is great but a feature that I think stands out with Ubuntu is how you can tweak the software updates to your liking such as what updates you want and the frequency of checking for updates.

Since I prefer the rolling distribution model best, this wouldn’t be particularly useful to me but I really like this concept and I applaud this sort of easy access to updates as what would suite your personal preference.

The system settings is the typical GNOME settings so it is without the customization abilities as you would see on most of the other desktops. This is one of those irritating “features” of GNOME, the lack of organic ability to customize and the interface to suit your specific needs.

If you really want to customize GNOME and make it your own, you will have to install GNOME Tweaks. I find this to be less than ideal but does open up the ability to make GNOME more to your liking.

This is what basically makes GNOME the worst desktop when it comes to the mess that is the system settings. The groanings that some may give about Plasma pales in comparison to the mess that GNOME has made of their system settings. I wished that Ubuntu would fix this, just for their release but alas, they have not. I don’t know what it would take for GNOME to include the tweaks tool directly into the system settings but the fact it has been a buried (not included by default) feature for quite some time now is depressingly unfortunate.

Really, once you select Yaru-dark, this is a premium GNOME visual experience. Now it looks good and doesn’t give me a headache. Sure, if you are using LibreOffice, you still have to deal with the white block in the center but it is not nearly as painful to look at as the all white version.

Not only is LibreOffice with Yaru-dark very pleasant to look at, it also makes for a nice focus or framing of the document too. I do appreciate the the work that was done into Yaru-dark, very much, and I wish that would be an easy default to select.

Just a thing…

I noticed that Zypper was in the Ubuntu repositories and I wanted to see what would happen if I installed it. I really should have played around with it longer to see if I could get it to successfully manage the Ubuntu repositories but I didn’t get very far with it.

Having Zypper on an Ubuntu could almost push me over the edge in using Ubuntu more regularly but Ubuntu is still missing the cohesive YaST Control Center for managing system settings and such. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have become very dependent and accustomed to that suite of tools and it is kind of expected on anything that I intend on managing.

Although I did a lot more with Ubuntu than these few things, this is where I am going to leave it. This is at a length that a typical reader will just start scrolling through to see how much more nonsense is stuffed to the article and just look at pictures to see if anything grabs attention.

What I Like

Ubuntu does a great job at polishing GNOME into something much nicer than what you get from the upstream. They really take into account user experience and do the little things that count, like a functional desktop where you are allowed to place icons, even if this is something that becomes messy and unwieldy. At least you have a choice and a place to put folders to other locations in your desktop for convenience sake.

The Yaru-dark theme is fantastic. Sure, it takes a bit of digging for the un-GNOME-initiated to turn this lever but once you install the GNOME Tweaks tool and unlock the “control of your desktop achievement,” you can keep the headaches at bay and make for a more relaxing and enjoyable desktop experience. Granted, I know this is an opinion of the author and just a quick reminder the heading of this section is “What I Like”. This is a biased review, I am not a journalist!

The update control options on Ubuntu is simply fantastic. If you were to set up a system that had to remain in an unchanged state for an extended period of time, this is the place to make it happen. I can see having this adjusted for something that needed to be treated as an appliance where the system doesn’t change, outside of what would be needed for security purposes. This is an appreciated feature.

What I Don’t Like

GNOME… As much work as Ubuntu puts into GNOME, it is still frustratingly aggravating to use and adjust to suit user preferences. The lack of easy switch to the Yaru-dark theme without having to jump through hoops (okay, not really hoops) to do simple improvements is just maddening. Also, GNOME quite possibly has the worst settings of the desktops with the separation of the Settings from the GNOME Tweaks. I would be less irritated by this if Ubuntu would just include it as a subset of the Settings but the way it stands, the need to go to two different places to find what you need is just silly.

Try as I might, I do not like the top and side bars, the Unity layout, for my desktop. I find the top menu combined with the side menu an unacceptable extra use of screen real-estate. Reference my previous LibreOffice images, there is this thick bar of overhead at the top of the screen before you even get into where you do any document creation. Now, I will admit, that it is no worse than my preferred layout of having all that “admin overhead” at the bottom of the screen It is the same total loss of vertical real estate. I don’t see the value in having the icons along the side as well as the information along the top. I can’t even say for sure why you even have that “LibreOffice Writer” drop down in the top bar. Sure it’s a place to get some information but why couldn’t that be integrated into the side dock? You also can’t make the top menu bar auto hide which would be a nice feature too. I would actually prefer the top bar go away entirely and just put everything to the left side of the screen MX style as I don’t see any other practical purpose of the top bar at all. It’s just there. Perhaps it is just to what I have grown accustomed but the split of information along two sides of the screen just doesn’t work well for me.

Final Thoughts

Ubuntu is, in my estimation the best Ubuntu experience you are likely to have. Though, as I can remember, Pop!_OS is pretty great too but I haven’t given that a spin in quite a while. I do appreciate the work that Ubuntu has done to improve the desktop look and feel. It’s a great improvement from the the stock GNOME experience. They give some color and a much needed modern touch to the icons that GNOME desperately needs. The Yaru theme has a premium look to it and GTK applications should test specifically against this theme as it is likely the dominant GTK theme in Linux today.

Would I give up openSUSE for Ubuntu? No, absolutely not but I do appreciate the technology, the time and effort that goes into the polish of this distribution. I appreciate all that Canonical has contributed, the technology, the run times for Steam and Snaps but the underlying operating system is not for me. Canonical’s gift of Snaps is a technology which I use pretty regularly on openSUSE. In my estimation, Ubuntu is more of a consumer distribution that is targeted to the mass market. It is a fine product but just doesn’t provide that same comfort that I get from my tried and true openSUSE where I feel like it is more mine to work with and on.

I highly recommend, if by some off chance you haven’t tried Ubuntu in a while, to take it for a spin. Just because GNOME annoys me, doesn’t mean it will necessarily annoy you and these are just the ramblings of a Linux user that likes what he likes.

References

Download Ubuntu
Yaru Theme on GitHub
Ubuntu 19.10 Release

Aruba IAP-105 Wireless Access Point Setup

Recently, my Linksys E2000 decided it would no longer be the wireless access point I expected it to be and it had to be replaced. Thinking that maybe it just needed an update or to be reverted to the original firmware also did not solve the problem as it would just not allow any clients to access the network. No matter what I did, there was no way I could get this thing to work properly. It was time to replace it. After doing some reading and digging but ultimately taking the advice of my e-friend Mauro, I purchased an Aruba IAP-105.

The WRT54GL I pulled out of storage just wasn’t cutting it, throughput wise, even though Wireless G was pretty great some 14 years ago.

This is a nice little device and it feels like a well built unit. While handling it, the look and feel of this well crafted equipment feels like something that shouts at me “professional” or perhaps, “I was built to survive knuckle-dragger handler like you.”

Reset the router done by inserting a paperclip into the recessed hole when off and turning it on. Wait about 5 seconds for the LED indicators to flash and you are off to the races. Note that just pressing and holding the reset button does nothing when it is on.

The Access Point presented a login screen and I was unsuccessful in locating anywhere in the instruction manual the default username and password. It took a bit of digging but I was able to determine that the default username is admin and the password is also admin. I was sure to fix that default as it has been shown far too often that the defaults are left and a network is compromised.

Setting up the Access Point was so simple that it took me a bit to realize I had it set up properly with very minimal effort on my part. The effort was so minimal, I was convinced it wasn’t set up properly until I started to see the clients connect. It was amazingly easy.

Under the Network section, select New to enter a New WLAN. What is interesting here is that you have 3 options. Employee, Voice and Guest. None of which are exactly my use but home use is probably closer to “Employee” than Guest.

Next was the Client IP & VLAN Settings. In my case, I have no VLANs on my network. Maybe I should but at this time, I don’t see a need. For my purposes. I want the Client IP assignment taken care of my main DHCP server and since I don’t have a Virtual Controller, I went with the “Network Assigned” option as it seemed the most reasonable. The client VLAN assignment was left at “Default”.

The Security section was straight forward

Nothing to do with the Access section.

Once I completed it, I was a bit confused because I didn’t set the DHCP server or the DNS or anything. I wasn’t sure if I had missed something so I clicked around a while, only to discover that it took care of all of that for me.

The client info provided by the access point is very interesting. Graphs on the signal strength, connection speed and throughput of the connected devices is very interesting to see. Now, should I have issues with a client, I can look at the graphs and make a better understanding of what the issues may be. It could help me to choose a better location for the IAP in the future.

I do want to add a note that I am getting a warning that I only have 100 Mbit/s link speed on the ethernet. I am thinking this has something to do with the PoE I am using as my switch and everything connected to it is full 1 Gbit/s. A bit irritating but I will circle back on that eventually.

Final Thoughts

Once again, my network feel solid and strong. I am very happy with this purchase and buying it on eBay for about $20 made it all that much better of a purchase. The set up was far more simple than I expected and I am strongly considering getting another one so that I have access points on opposite ends of the house.

I am incredibly satisfied with this purchase. The network connection in my house is very strong and although I am slightly annoyed by the Ethernet speed, it’s probably my fault some how and I am going to work that out later.

Reference

Default Username and Password for IAP-105
Getting Started with Aurba Instant AP

Things are Looking Pod-tastic | Fall Time Blathering

When I first started to put fingers to keyboard with this “CubicleNate.com” thing, I didn’t ever envision it become much of anything. Just a little tool to help keep my notes somewhat organized and hope that I could provide some kind of resource to someone at some point. In late 2018, I joined the Big Daddy Linux Live community, appearing frequently on the weekly “LUG” meetings and making many new e-friends that challenged me to expand my knowledge of Linux and open source software. This has given me new things to play with and write about in Linux.

I started to produce some video content on YouTube and this site to enhance some of my content and later, I thought I would cut my teeth on a podcast of my own to talk about the nerdy things I enjoy. My reoccurring topics consist of my additional thoughts about a subject or two of the last BDLL show and an openSUSE corner but truth be told, openSUSE weaves itself throughout my “noodlings”.

In September of 2019, the formation of Destination Linux Network was announced where these well established content creators have pooled their resources to draw together their somewhat discrete communities and provide a forum for interaction in greater depth than what Telegram, Discord or YouTube can provide on their own.

As part of the launch of this new Destination Linux Network, I was asked if I was interested in starting a podcast with one Eric Adams. My immediate reaction was an absolute and resounding, “yes” to which I have no regret. The podcast is called “DLN Xtend” where we discuss a part of some of the other shows in greater depth with our own perspectives and slant on the subject. It has been loads of fun to do and I hope to continue to be a part of this as well as the Destination Linux Network for years to come.

Additionally, and not directly related, I have been able to join Dave and Yannick one of my new favorite podcasts, “Tea, Earl Grey Hot“, an unofficial Star Trek fan podcast as well as the “Ask Noah Show” where we discussed some of the merits of Microsoft and their contributions to the open source software movement.

It has been a fun ride that had has lead me to some new and interesting opportunities, not only am I blessed with being able to interact with some of the most interesting minds in Linux and open source software but it has opened up doors with other tangentially related topics.

Noodlings | DLN Xtend, Universal Packages and CAD

I’d like to say I must be doing something right when I end up on a couple podcasts or perhaps it means a laps in judgment by many others. I want to thank everyone that has taken time out of their busy day to listen to these noodlings.

The 8th Noodling brought to you in the lowest audio quality permitted

DLN Xtend

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of the Destination Linux Network to which, without any though or consideration, seemingly on both sides, I said yes.

Started this podcast with Eric Adams called DLN Xtend. To be completely fair, he really carries the show, as you can tell by these noodlings of mine, I can barely carry myself.

I rather enjoy talking to Eric, we both geek out over so many tech topics. He has a different bend to his Linux and technology implementation views.

Sudo vulnerability Discussion

Snaps and Flatpak on openSUSE

Just a quick note, but setting up openSUSE with Snaps and Flatpak are both trivial. The great thing about openSUSE is that setting up either in openSUSE is super easy and if either not not first class citizens

Flatpak reference from the openSUSE Wiki
Installing snap on openSUSE

CAD Software

Thanks to my good buddy, Eric Adams, he sent me down a rabbit hole of looking at CAD software again. A link from FossMint.com titled “11 Best CAD Software for Linux”

I have had two CAD packages that get fairly regular use. One is for “real CAD” the other is for fun.

FreeCAD is a CAD application that I use periodically, it has 3D modeling and assembly package that are pretty decent. The drawing package is pretty decent too.

LeoCAD is an application I use when I want to play with virtual Lego bricks. Often when building with my kids, I will get an idea and when I find I want different parts, I will build it in CAD and order parts as necessary.

The highlights of this article that has inspired interest and I decided to do some installing, because, why not, CAD is fun.

BRL-CAD is a free and open-source, cross-platform CAD application. There isn’t an RPM for it but there is a Debian and a tar.gz. I am going to play with this and make some kind of determination if I could use it. On the surface, the interface looks a bit like it has a steep learning curve but it might be fun give it a whirl.

BricsCAD is a commercial, modern, multi-platform CAD software for 2D and 3D modeling. The focus on this software is to allow users to work faster and smarter while spending fewer resources

The cost of this for a lifetime license with the Mechanical package is $2095 USD. That is a bit steep for a home gamer like myself. There is a 30-day trial for this software and although I haven’t tried it yet, it does look pretty fantastic

VeriCAD is another paid CAD application that does 3D modeling. This has a “freemium” business model and is much less expensive than the previous with a one time fee of 699€ and a discounted 79€ for students and universities.

I am going to take the time to check these out, just because I am very curious to see how it compares to PTC’s Creo that I use in my mechanical design career. What matters most to me is the ability to create parametric 3D models that allow for geometric constraints. I also want an Assembly package that allows for making alignments with either datums or geometric features. I have had trouble with some applications that don’t allow for this very well.

11 Best Cad Software for Linux on FossMINT.com

BDLL Follow Up

Canonical has released Ubuntu 19.10 along with it’s many flavors. It’s interesting to see what new inclusions Canonical puts into their distributions, being an openSUSE guy, and knowing largely what goes on here and what the focus is, it’s nice to see what other distros are doing.

Overall I like what I see, and I still have to finish my review of Ubuntu Proper, I think Ubuntu does a great job with Gnome. Something about the way they package it makes it much more enjoyable to use than a vanilla Gnome experience and they have been putting a lot of resources into it.

It was great seeing Alan Pope and Martin Wimpress on BDLL interacting with the community and taking in feedback on user experience. Personally, I don’t use Ubuntu on hardware directly, but I always keep a VM of it to keep myself familiarized. Ubuntu Proper, running Gnome is a far better experience in VM than it ever has historically. It’s quite obvious that they are doing something good over in Gnome land.

Next Distro fore BDLL Review is Ubuntu MATE.

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191024 20191025 20191027 20191028

A lot has rolled out in the last two weeks on Tumbleweed. For the full news feed, visit news.opensuse.org as there is far too much to cover here.

The Mesa 3D graphical library was updated to 19.2.1 which brought several new features and a big RADV performance boost for AMD GPUs. VirtualBox hypervisor for x86 had a minor update to version 6.0.14 which fixed some potential networking with interrupt signaling for network adapters in UEFI guests. OpenSSH 8.1 had a major upgrade that included new features like experimental lightweight signature and verification ability.

KDE Plasma version 5.17.1 arrived with KDE Frameworks 5.63.0. The bug fixes that stand out the most to me on this is to KScreen as with 5.17 there were issues of not all the displays being represented in the Display Configuration tool forcing me to use ArandR instead. Kwin received some fixes, the Plasma Desktop Mouce KCM fixed the X11 mouse acceleration profile. Also, if you are running a touch screen device without a keyboard or with limited keyboard use, you may want to try Wayland again with this version of Plasma. It functions so much cleaner. I am using the Wayland not the “Full Wayland” desktop.

YaST, the greatest system administration and maintenance tool I have ever used, received updates to the Firstboot, Installation, Storage-NG and xml packages. I would like to see other distributions adopt YaST as part of their system configuration suite. Having that cohesive collection of tools is hugely valuable.

The Tumbleweed reviewer gives 20191024 a stable score of 93; 20191025 a stable 96; 20191027 a stable 98 and 20191028 a stable 94.

Power Cycling PCIe Devices from the Command Line

I hate to say this but Linux software is not perfect. I know, I know, but nothing could possibly be wrong with openSUSE, right? Well, Linux and all the open source tools are created by people and since we are flawed, so are our creations. Sometimes, things can slip through the quality assurance process at openSUSE and however rare, they do happen.

The Problem

One of my problems that has shown it’s ugly head is an issue with the wifi driver. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it cannot authenticate. Another situation is, sometimes, you may have an issue passing a device to a Virtual Machine and it doesn’t come back quite right.

The Solution

In short, if you have a device on the PCI bus that needs to be removed and added again, there are some ways to do that. To get the PCI device ID, run:

/sbin/lspci

Take note of whatever your troublesome device is from here.

Method 1

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/$NUMBER/reset

This should reset the device and have it behave, but as you may know from your experience in having used the original Nintendo Entertainment System, sometimes, it just isn’t good enough.

Example

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/0000\:03\:00.0/reset

In my case, that will send the wifi network module to reset. It may or may not solve your issue.

Method 2

This one absolutely works. It is a bit more… brute force but it does indeed solve any issues I have.

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/$NUMBER/remove
sleep 2
echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/rescan

The sleep 2 is only necessary if you are copying and pasting into the terminal or creating a script. It is just a pause before it rescans the PCI bus. How I used it and I did create a script for this that I can invoke if I have problems.

Example

echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/devices/0000\:03\:00.0/remove
sleep 2
echo "1" > /sys/bus/pci/rescan

Final Thoughts

Software isn’t perfect, I have historically had issues on more than one distribution with PCI devices requiring a reset. This method works with openSUSE Tumbleweed in the year 2019. If this should change, I will update this post.

References

https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/73908/how-to-reset-cycle-power-to-a-pcie-device

NetRunner | Review from an openSUSE User

NetRunner (19.08) is not one of those distributions I hear touting its uniqueness and wonders loudly on the Internet. As part of a two week challenge for BigDaddyLinux Live, I lassoed an ISO and took it for a spin on a VM. Some may argue that a VM doesn’t make for a good test experience and I would agree to that, sort of… This is not going to be a test of NetRunner’s performance on bare metal but rather, this is an impression of how the developers are answering the operating system question.

Bottom Line Up Front, NetRunner has a look of its own. The default software is refreshingly not minimal as that seems to be the talk of many Linux enthusiasts (I blame Arch for that). The included pieces of software makes for a great showcase of the various KDE applications. Personally, this is a good approach for most users. Those minimal installation folks should just learn to remove software using the package manager if that is such a huge issue. I am not keen on the default theme with the red cursor and the lack of a usable Dark NetRunner theme. Aside from that, it appears to be a good KDE Plasma experience and a fine showcase of the various applications a Linux user should try. This is my biased review of NetRunner as an openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation of NetRunner, like most of the Linux world is very straight forward and not problematic. Although, I realize that this is not a shared view among all users, this is my experience.

The bootloader gave some options so I wanted to play around with them. Unfortunately, the Memory test didn’t work for me but it was a neat idea.

Rather than continue to play around with these tools, I decided I would go ahead and unwrap this NetRunner present and see how it goes for me.

Essentially, a few moments later and the Desktop presented itself in all it’s KDE Plasma beauty. The default look is fine with me. Not my preference but I don’t expect every distribution to ship my preference, that would be silly and would undoubtedly make touring other distros incredibly boring.

The installation process uses the Calamares installer so it is incredibly easy to do. Thankfully, there isn’t any scavenger hunt required to initiate the installation. Once the installer has settled, select your Language and Location.

Next will be your keyboard layout and your partition scheme. I chose to erase the entire disk. It is interesting to note that the default Swap size is twice your RAM amount plus a little extra for good measure.

The last bit of using your noodle to get this set up is to set your user name and root password. Once complete, you are given a Summary and final sanity check before you commit to the installation.

The installation doesn’t take before it is finished which gives you a great opportunity to read the installation propaganda as you wait, or you can go do other things as I did and come back when it is done.

When you are done, feel free to reboot or hang out in the live session, whichever works for you. I wanted to see how quickly this would boot and I wanted to dig into it.

First Run and Impressions

The boot time was reasonable. Not lighting fast but reasonable and of the speed that I would have no complaints. Ultimately, I would rather it boot every time than boot occasionally really fast and leave you scratching your head when it doesn’t choose to boot.

The login screen or sometimes called “Display Manager” looked nice enough. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it made me feel like it was an older layout. That might be me and if we were in court, I would expect the other lawyer to object to that and strike it from the record.

The desktop does look nice, but I am not sure about that red cursor. It does bring back the happy smiles of the Amiga OS as it did back in the early 90s. The version of Plasma that shipped with NetRunner 19.08 is 5.14.5. A bit older as it was released in October of 2018 but not a bad version at all. It should also be noted that this is not an LTS version either.

The menu is the Application Dashboard. This is not my favorite menu system but that is easily changed. I do admit, it is a nice looking interface but it is just not for me. I don’t like menus that block out my desktop.

The game selection brought a smile to my face. I am glad to see Steam is installed by default. If you are into gaming, Steam is your portal to a wide selection of electric joy. I would have liked to have seen Lutris too but one out of two is not too bad. Excitingly, a game that I did forget about was BurgerSpace. It is a BurgerTime clone that I played on the Intellivision as a kid. Although, BurgerSpace doesn’t have the fun 8-bit music as the original, it was still fun to play… until I couldn’t get down the ladder…

I wanted to explore further the different applications. I found it interesting that there is a Skype client by default. The multimedia applications installed by default are some that I use. Handbrake and Kdenlive are two that I use with some frequency. There isn’t VLC but SMPlayer is available which is fine. The Web Camera application is Cheese which is also fine.

The Web applications section I thought was curious. Telegram was good to see but I scratched my head on the WhatsApp. I know that is used by many but the juxtaposition with having it alongside Hooktube seemed odd. Hooktube divorces you from the YouTube-ness of YouTube while WhatsApp is an application that will be collecting on you. It is easy enough to remove but I just thought it odd. I am sure that there is a valid reason for the selection, I just don’t know what that is.

The software package manager is very decent and I like the interface very much. It’s very clear on how to use, perhaps overwhelming for a new or less technical user but it is perfectly usable. I have found that there is this rather large section of the populous that doesn’t like to read and a wall of text can be overwhelming when there isn’t a giant “GO” or “NEXT” button to guide their eyes. When committing to updates, authentication is required. This is in contrast to what I am most accustomed in openSUSE.

What I found fascinating is that I found interesting is that it looked like the critical updates were not automatically included. Perhaps they were not selected or I had done something wrong but I would assume that these would be priority. I completed these updates and rebooted the system to take advantage of the new kernel and such.

The default NetRunner theme is too light for my liking. I went into the System Settings to correct this deficiency and unfortunately, I was met with less than stellar results. Somehow there seems to be something wedged in the theme engine that makes even the Breeze Dark theme unusable.

It didn’t seem to matter which dark theme I chose, NetRunner, changed the colors, Breeze Dark, use the Dark Color scheme, the result was the same in that it was not possible to read the text as any contrast was lost. For whatever reason, the desktop was not respecting my request.

This is basically a deal breaker for me. I do not like light themes… at all… and if I cannot allow my eyes to take a break from the light pollution, I am not a happy user. Just a mention, but I did notice that there was some reorganizing in the menu selection. Plasma Tweaks was an additional section that included all the visual tweaking settings. It seemed redundant and a silly call back to the Gnome Tweaks mess of applications.

There are some other interesting applications included in NetRunner that are worth looking into but I have already blathered on far too long about my first impressions.

What I Like

NetRunner does not do the rather common nonsense approach of not bundling software with their desktop environment. They have taken the time to include a nice and sensible selection of applications to get you going right out of the gate. Quite literally, after a short installation cycle, you can be up and running, creating, playing or doing very typical computer based tasks. The selection, although somewhat peculiar is a great showcase of applications.

The package manger, Synaptic, is frankly, one of my long time favorite package managers ever in Linux. It is the Debian staple of managing your packages and no Debian system should be without it. The fact that it is installed by default is a huge positive. As nice as the software centers are for discovery of applications, Synaptic just does the job better.

What I Don’t Like

The theme, something is wrong with the theme and how Plasma handles themes. I am sure I could correct it with enough time but that is a pretty significant annoyance. I would prefer NetRunner just use the standard Breeze themes and modify it to whatever would make it uniquely NetRunner with maybe a different shade of blue and the logos. Making the theme as such that I cannot read the text when switching it to a dark color scheme is a no go.

There isn’t a system control panel like you would find on the openSUSE or MX Linux distributions. I find YaST to be such an important tool for any system I set up. The KDE System Settings is great for user level settings but not the best for system wide settings, user management and the like. If I could wave the magic wand, I would like to seem more distributions use something like YaST, if not YaST itself on their distros for better system management.

The Software selection, although mostly great had me less than happy about having Skype and WhatsApp installed by default. This might make me sound like an old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but I have made it a point to push people away from such services and use them only if necessary. Having these installed by default don’t make me smile, I would much prefer to see other, less invasive applications in their place. Telegram was nice to see so there is that.

Final Thoughts

NetRunner is a distribution that is clearly focused squarely on it’s own goals and appearance. If you aren’t going to stray from what they have set in place, this will do nicely for you. The software selection is a great start as a sensible base of applications and also has some applications that should probably be removed

I am not exactly sure what I think of NetRunner. I like much of what they are trying to accomplish, I appreciate that they are doing their own thing and seemingly have a goal in mind of targeting a general user with this distribution. At the same time, I do not like some of their defaults and find some of there selection, not to my liking. Would I recommend NetRunner for someone to try? Yes, but it wouldn’t be the first I would recommend. It scores high on the ease of installation but low on the ability to cleanly customize it. It scores high on default software selection but bothers me that they have selected some other applications. Overall, it is a decent distribution and if you are not satisfied with your current experience, this is worth a try.

Would I switch from openSUSE to NetRunner? No, not a chance but I am glad NetRunner is out there and answering the software needs for many people.

References

NetRunner Download
Calamares Project
BigDaddyLinux Live Discorse on NetRunner