Acer AspireOne D255 with openSUSE Tumbleweed Xfce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

References

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

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Kim | KDE Plasma Graphics Service Menu

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

Installation

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

sudo zypper install kim

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

Main features of Kim: Compress and resize

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

Treatment and publication

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

Incredibly polite!

What I Don’t Like

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

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

Back In Time for Data Backups on openSUSE | Retrospective

Backup-02

The lack of data security is something that has recently affected some municipal governments in a negative way. Atlanta in 2018 was attacked with a ransomware and demanded $51,000 before they would unlock it. Baltimore was hit a second time this past May [2019]. I am not a security expert but in my non-expert opinion, just keeping regular backups of your data would have prevented needing to spend a ransom to get your data back. It would also help to run openSUSE Linux or one of the many other Linux options on the desktop to reduce the impact of a user induced damage due to wayward link-clicking.

If you are interested in keeping your personal data “safe,” offline backups are an absolute requirement. Relying only on Google Drive, Dropbox, Nextcloud or whatever it may be is just not not adequate. Those are a synchronizing solution and can be a part of your data-safekeeping strategy but not the entirety of it.

I have been using Back In Time as my backup strategy, in this time, I have only had to restore a backup once but that was an elected procedure. Back In Time is great because it is a Qt based application so it looks good in KDE Plasma

Installation

For openSUSE users, getting the software is an easy task. The point and click method can be done here:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/backintime-qt

The more fun and engaging method would be to open a terminal and run:

sudo zypper install backintime-qt

It is, after all, in the main openSUSE repository and not playing in the terminal when the opportunity presents itself is a missed opportunity.

How it has been going

Since this is a retrospective on using Back In Time, you can find more about usage and other options backing up your system hereI am not going to claim that I was 100% disciplined performing weekly backups like I suggested. The sad reality is, I got busy and sometimes it was every other week… I may have forgotten to do it entirely in April… but for the most part, I was pretty good about keeping my system backed up.

Since Back In Time is really quite easy to use it is as simple as connecting a specially designated USB drive into my computer and I start “Back In Time”. Yes, in that order because I don’t I get a rather angry message.

BackInTime 04-Snapshots folder.png

Something else you have to do is either manually or automatically remove old snapshots. I didn’t pay attention and some of the snapshots completed “WITH ERRORS!” I am sharing this as a cautionary tale to pay closer attention to your backup medium, whatever that may be, to ensure you have enough space.

From there, all I would have to do is click the Save Snapshots Icon.

BackInTime 05-Take Snapshot Icon-box

The application will evaluate the last snapshot against your filesystem and create an incremental snapshot. The first snapshot is the most time consuming, the subsequent snapshots don’t take nearly as much time.

BackInTime 01-Main Screen.png

With Back In Time, there is a feature to adjust how many snapshots it keeps. I ultimately decided to have it automatically delete snapshots older than 6 months (26 Weeks). For my purposes, anything older than 6 months is likely useless. I could probably reduce the length of time that I keep. I really just need the data should something catastrophic happen to all the machines that I keep synchronized.  Your requirements may vary, of course.

BackInTime 03-Auto-remove

I have been told that I should do a separate monthly and weekly offline updates but it is my opinion that for my personal usage, weekly is fine. I would also say that if you are responsible for an organization or business data, doing the separate monthly and weekly backups, maybe even daily would be better. I am not a professional here, nor should you take my advice on what is best practice for your organization. I do recommend that you do backups at some interval and find out what is best for you.

Final Thoughts

After fumbling my way through Back In Time a bit, adjusting it’s settings for my purposes, this has proven itself to be a fantastic application I can count on to keep my data “safe.” I can personally attest to the ease of backing up and restoring data. The way I use it isn’t necessarily the best way for you. Back In Time can do a LOT more than the limited way I am using it.

Even if you don’t use Back In Time, find an application that will help you make backups that is easy to do and sustainable enough to stay consistent. There isn’t a single downside to it.

References

Data Back Up | Better to Prevent than to Regret

Back In Time on GitHub

Back In Time Documentation

Back In Time from openSUSE

Atlanta Ransomware Attack from SecurityMagazine.com

Baltimore Ransomware Attack Article

Wavebox | Chat Unification Snap Application on openSUSE Tumbleweed

Wavebox on openSUSE

From time to time, I like to play around with the universal packaging available in Linux. It has mostly been AppImages and Flatpak but I wanted to Snap something into my system. After working out an AppArmor issue. Snaps were working fantastically well once again. The application I wanted to try was another Chat Message Unification Application. I had heard wonderful things about Wavebox so it was time to try it out. It’s described as, “A clever new home for cloud apps on your desktop bringing Gmail, Inbox, Outlook, O365, Trello, Slack & over 1000 more apps into a configurable client.”

You can look at the details here on the SnapCraft store.

Wavebox Snap 19

In a terminal I installed Wavebox from the Snap Store:

sudo snap install wavebox

Installation was a snap (haha) and it created an entry in the application menu of KDE Plasma, just as one would expect. It should also be noted that the system tray icon also looks great next to the rest of the icons sitting there too.

Wavebox Snap 20 System Tray.png

When the Application started up, I didn’t notice any lengthy start up time that has been complained about in the past with Snaps. It was delightfully… snappy… and when it settled I was greeted with a pleasant interface. There was no question as to what I needed to do, create an account.Wavebox Snap 2

Going through the process was really quite trivial. You begin by entering your name, email and password. I elected to setup two-factor authentication which did require me to install an application on my phone…

After you have logged in, you can add your first application. I went with Slack, specifically the Bad Voltage slack group. There is a convenient search box right at the top of the uncluttered interface.

I am not 100% sure what the “Pic a Colour” section does, entirely but it does create a ring around thee account on the side tab of the service. Setting up Slack was trivial and has the same basic feel of what you would have in the web browser.

What I think is interesting is the different customization features you can specify for each module you add. What is interesting to me is the ability to put a tab to sleep and stop it after some time of inactivity. I don’t know exactly what that means and how it is implemented but if that is what I am thinking it is, that should be more kind to your system when on battery power. I find with all the services running in either a browser or other Chat Unification applications, the CPU usage is noticeable.

Wavebox Snap 11

I wanted to install the G-suite of tools and began that process by selecting the Gmail icon when adding an application. There is a similar “Pick a Colour” selection then you can choose which services it loads into this “tab”. I didn’t test all the functions but the ones that did worked as expected. The Hangouts button doesn’t give me the hangouts configuration I prefer but it is functional, none the less.

Wavebox Snap 13

Setting up the account is much like logging in through a browser or even Kmail, for that matter. When you sign in, you then configure the default inbox configuration.

The display of the email is as you would see in a web page but the added benefit is that you have all the other services on a menu bar at the top of the Window. This is, by far, the best implementation of interfacing with the Google Services I have ever seen. It is far more functional than the Google defaults and even nicer than what I have been using on similar services.

Memory Use

It’s very easy to see how much of your drive is taken up by the application

/dev/loop11 156M 156M 0 100% /snap/wavebox/180

I don’t view this as outrageous at all. The application has another 181 MiB of storage on my home directory in the snap folder. I haven’t fully investigated the the contents of the folder but it does keep historical snap version configuration files, which is interesting.

Running the 10 Google Services, Riot and Slack, I am using about 490 MiB of RAM, so, 12 services in all on this so about 40.8 MiB per service. Combine that with the sleep function, this doesn’t feel too bad.

What I like

The way that Wavebox bundles the Google Services into one tab and how integrated and purposeful it feels makes this application really quite special. There is a lot of thought and detail put into it. I would say that this is a far better “Google Experience” than what you would have on a Chromebook. It is, seemingly a much more efficient and integrated experience, really, the best I have ever seen.

The Sleep Tab feature is very interesting and I have not studied it enough to know exactly how it works because I have received email notifications while the tab was sleeping so it must check periodically. somehow. I would really like to run this on a long term basis and determine, or at least, better determine what it is doing. Maybe even do some CPU usage comparisons between Wavebox and similar services but I just don’t have the time for that.

The conveniences of having all the different communication and collaboration services in one window, everything unified, is very conducive to productivity. That feature alone makes this application stand out from others similar to it. I would determine that it is a better experience than what you have in a browser with a string of pinned tabs.

What I Don’t Like

Wavebox does requires a login to an external server someplace to manage your accounts. This is like the Franz application I have also reviewed. It was an area for which I didn’t particularly like. I do see the utility of it and since these are all services you are logging into, one more isn’t that big of a deal… really… but somehow that is still a sticking point for me.

Wavebox isn’t free. Not that I think everything should be free but I would rather spit out a one time payment for this application. It costs $48 per year to use this application. For my purposes, since my efficiency with any of these services is not a part of my job, (arguably maybe Google could be), it isn’t a good value for me to make the investment. However, if your work required you to communicate on numerous  services regularly, I could absolutely see this as being a vital piece for improved quality of [computing] life.

Final Thoughts

Wavebox LogoRambox and Franz are both similar applications I have reviewed, albeit with a slightly different lens, they are all really quite fantastic applications. Any one is a good choice and I am glad that they all exist. There are features from each application that I appreciate so each application has their merit. I would say that of all of them Wavebox does seem to have just a bit more polish than the rest. There are more tools and tweaks with this and the way all the Google Services are rolled up with a very convenient menu makes this the best experience for using G-Suite. Far better than even with Chrome or using a Chromebook. This is so nicely integrated that it makes a mediocre web application experience feel like a real, nicely polished, and purposeful, native application.

Wavebox is, undoubtedly, suited for the professional user, not so much a dude like me that can’t seem to stick with an application like this for more than 6 months or so. This is extremely well thought out and well executed. Features like the Sleep Tab make this stand above other options.

Another final thought, having access to Snaps (along with other universal packages) available on openSUSE Tumbleweed really opens up a very wide array of available applications for my use. Snaps seem to integrate well into openSUSE; just as long as nothing gets messed up with AppArmor again. Snaps are a great choice for application delivery for many cases and I am thankful that I have access to them.

References

Wavebox from the Snap Store Web Frontend

Snapd Resolved bug on Bugzilla

Rambox | Chat Message Unification Application for openSUSE

Franz | Chat Messaging Unification Application on openSUSE

Outside the Cubicle | Sledgehammer Repair, Handle Replacement

Sledgehammer Repair.png

Last fall (2018) I broke my “new” sledge hammer. I had maybe gotten all of 3 months of use out of it and snapped the wooden handle right below the business end. After much consternation, I picked up a fiberglass handle instead of a wooden one mostly due to the feel and finish of the handle.

I started out by removing the remnants of the old handle out of the the sledge as to get it ready for the new handle. This was a more aggravating process than anticipated. Lots of drilling, chiseling and hammering to free the steel from the splintered wood.

Outside of working and playing in Linux, I have always enjoyed working with my hands on projects. Sometimes, my fingers need a break from the keyboard and I need to break or fix something.

This is my folly and success in fixing a sledge hammer. The installation of the handle was academically not a complicated process but the execution did have its challenges.

I am trying to learn Kdenlive in hopes that I can become effective with the software. This is a cobbling together, learning to edit video through the various features. It’s been enjoyable and this is my cobbled together result.

References

Truper Handle from Lowe’s

Kdenlive Home

YouTube Video Link

SimpleScreenRecorder on openSUSE

A fine tool for which I recently had some use is this very capable application called SimpleScreenRecorder. I used it to create a couple simple videos mostly to see how well it works but mostly for the purpose of creating something useful as a reference.

To install it on openSUSE use the one-click method here:

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

Or, my preferred method, in the terminal, enter:

sudo zypper in simplescreenrecorder

Fantastically, it is built using the Qt toolkit so it looks much better in the KDE Plasma Desktop Environment.

I have used it for a couple videos and have plans for more, mostly as notes to myself but in video form.

Basic Usage

After installing the software, it will sit in the multimedia subsection on the menu. It can be called up in a search as well, at least on Plasma.

SimpleScreenRecorder 1

Select Continue

Next you are presented with your Input Settings. You can create different profiles for different purposes. You can also select if you want to record all the screens, a single screen, a fixed rectaning, follow the cursor or to record OpenGL. I have only used the options to record the entire single screen or a fixed rectangle.

SimpleScreenRecorder 2

You can choose to record the cursor or not and whether or not you want Audio. I have only used PulseAudio and it has seemingly worked just fine.

When you Continue, you will have to select the Output Profile or create your own, set the file name, the video and audio codecs settings. The settings pictured below has worked quite well for me in terms of quality but are a bit excessive in the memory usage.

 

SimpleScreenRecorder 3

After all that is set, you can start recording at anytime. It is also not a bad idea to Start the preview if you want to make sure it looks right before beginning the recording. The information frame on the left side of the window is quite nice. It tells you all kinds of useful information about the process. What is especially good to know is the file size. Depending on your available system resources, this could become somewhat of a concern.

SimpleScreenRecorder 4

Once you have completed the recording, hit Stop Recording along the top of the window and Save Recording if you believe you are satisfied with the results.

And that is it!

How I’ve Used It

I wanted to demonstrate how to set up switching from left-to-right typing to right-to-left typing on LibreOffice

I also did a quick little video just to play with SimpleScreenRecorder and showing how to turn on and off tooltips within KDE Plasma 5.16. I did edit both of these videos with Kdenlive for practice because someday, someday, I might get good at it.

Final Thoughts

SimpleScreenRecorder is a fantastic example of easy to use software to create simple videos for any number of things. This is great for demonstrating how you accomplish something on the desktop, sometimes video is the best way to present it. This is a fine example of easy to use open source and free software that has an incredible value.

Since I am able to install this application from the official repository with my favorite Linux distribution openSUSE Tumbleweed, it is just another straw on my pile of reasons I use it. Additionally, it requires no fancy configuration to get going, there is nothing peculiar about running it and it has been seemingly quite reliable. I have even thought of other fantastic uses besides providing quick little help videos and really, the limits of this application are at the limits of your imagination with this tool.

openSUSE Linux and all it’s fantastic tools add just a bit of happiness to my life, and I am so incredibly grateful to everyone that has had even the smallest part in making this possible.

References

SimpleScreenRecorder from software.opensuse.org
SimpleScreenRecorder Home Page

Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU/KVM on openSUSE Tumbleweed

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

Installation

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

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

Setup

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

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

File > Add Connection…

Virt-Manager-01-Add Connection

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

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

Virt-Manager-02-New VM

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

Virt-Manager-03-New VM

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

Virt-Manager-04-ISO

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

Virt-Manager-05-ISO

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

Virt-Manager-06-Memory and CPU

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

Virt-Manager-07-Storage Volume

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

Virt-Manager-08-Summary

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

Virt-Manager-08-GRUB Boot

Configuration

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Reference

Virt-Manager on openSUSE Software

Qt Virt-Manager on Github

KVM/QEMU hypervisor driver

Distracted by LeoCAD Once Again on openSUSE Linux

LeoCAD-01-Title

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

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

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

/usr/share/leocad/

The parts library can be found here.

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

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

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

Designing

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

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

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

Blacktron Combining Options

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

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

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

Invader Crane Mode-17-Module

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Further Reading

https://www.leocad.org

LeoCAD Parts Library

LeoCAD | Free LEGO® CAD Software on openSUSE Linux

Rebrickable.com

CubicleNate MOCs

Blacktron on LEGO Fandom.com

Dolphin | My File Manager of Choice on openSUSE

Dolphin File Manager

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

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

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

Scope of this Blathering

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

Briefly About Dolphin

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

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

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

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

Top Five Fantastic Features

1. The Interface

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

Dolphin-01

2. Split Windows.

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

Dolphin-02-Split

3. Filter Bar

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

Dolphin-05-Filter

4. Search Function

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

Dolphin-04-Search

5. Terminal

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

Dolphin-03-Split with Terminal

Final Thoughts

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

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

Further Reading

More about Dolphin from KDE.org

BigDaddyLinux Show on File Managers

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 on openSUSE Tumbleweed

There has been quite a lot of buzz in the news about the first stable release of Plasma in 2019, version 5.15.0, released on 12 February 2019. It came to openSUSE Tumbleweed a few days later and a few days after that, I started updating my various systems running Tumbleweed. I am not going to cover all the changes and improvements, there is plenty of that available to read. Instead, this is my experience with the upgrade process on the first three Tumbleweed machines.

My primary machine isn’t generally first to get the latest updates, because I am using it nearly all the time so I will begin the updates on other machines, incidentally, all of which are Dell. The first machine that I performed the updates is a Dell Latitude E6440. There isn’t a whole lot of software on this one as it’s primary focus is for educational related activities. There aren’t any community repositories on this machine so the update required no intervention at all. The next machine, a Dell Inspiron 20 3048, does do a lot for me but doesn’t have too many community maintained repositories. It too went without incident. Lastly, my primary machine, also a Dell Latitude E6440 but with more memory, storage and a dedicated AMD GPU.

This machine has quite a bit of software on it. I do try things out but I don’t always remove the applications or community maintained repositories. It took it as an opportunity to start trimming out some additional repositories, thankfully, zypper makes that process easy. My primary machine was trimmed down to 36 repositories. Then I performed the update.

sudo zypper dup

Zypper ran through, did its thing, asked me about a couple python packages an one package I installed that I already knew was “broken” by not having a dependency. After Zypper calculated everything out and I agreed to the update. Just as every other Tumbleweed update goes, this one proceeded without incident.

All three machines had but only one small issue. They didn’t want to leave Plasma to reboot, specifically, selecting “reboot” or “halt” and even “logout” did not actually perform those actions, Instead, I ran in terminal:

sudo systemctl reboot

There may be a better way of doing a reboot, if you are aware of such, please let me know. A few moments later, the machine started up without incident and what I may be most excited about is that, everything still, just works.

KDE Plasma Upgrade 5.15.0 KInfoCenter

I did receive one pleasant surprise, my Bluetooth keyboard, for the first time communicated that it was low on power instead of just going unresponsive. I was able to see a “10% Warning” pop up notification. I thought that was pretty slick. I have been enjoying the status and warnings with wireless Logitech devices for years but this was the first for Bluetooth. Very well done.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is ever perfect but my experience with using openSUSE Tumbleweed has been pretty fantastic for the last two years. I don’t have to worry about an update breaking my system or crossing my fingers when the operating system base iterates to a new version. Not a single piece of software has broken or had any regressions. The two applications I check for issues, Kdenlive and the Open Broadcaster Studio, continue to work just the same. I experienced zero appreciable downtime with this update which is another tribute to all those involved with openSUSE, KDE Plasma and ever other application so many graciously pour their energy into and permitting me the use of this finely engineered, fantastic distribution of Linux.

Further Reading

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 Announcement

Tumbleweed Snapshots News Announcement for 21 February 2019