mGBA | Game Boy Emulation on Linux

I have received quite the number of comments about emulating the Game Boy on modern hardware and all the work that is going into it. I learned so much about the extensive community around emulating Game Boy games and the technology, research and absolute passion that goes into it. Though I was given many suggestions, the one that I settled on trying was mGBA. It appears that the latest version in the openSUSE repositories and on Flathub is 0.8.3, although, there seems to be a bit of discrepancy on what the change log says vs what the application itself says… not big deal. The latest release as of today is 0.8.4 which is available from the Snap Store. Since I am not emulating any of the more difficult games, the changes between the versions won’t likely affect my usage.

I do recommend checking out this Gameboy Emulator Shootout Matrix from here. I will get to some more of these at some point but considering what is widely available, and I see that it is in the middle of the pack on the tests, this was a good place to start. I would also be interested in more feedback here, what should I try next and what should I specifically check out between the emulators.

Installation

There are three options I have available to me to install mGBA on openSUSE. RPM packages for openSUSE from the Open Build Service, Flatpak from the main Flathub repository and the Snap Package, curated by the globally loved and appreciated Alan Pope.

RPM

Although I have installed them all, my chosen method for my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine is using the Open Build Service. I am going with the Tumbleweed tailored RPM package from the Emulators Experimental Package from here:

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

My main reason for this method is that I already have the Emulators repository configured for my system and I know that it will fall in line with my desktop theme. mGBA is a Qt based application and therefore works well and integrates nicely with my openSUSE Breeze Dark Theme.

Flathub

The second method available to me is through Flathub. You have the ability to navigate to the Flathub site or use Discover on the Plasma Desktop, assuming you have it configured already. Either way, this version works well from my very limited testing.

https://www.flathub.org/apps/details/io.mgba.mGBA

Snap Package

The third method available to me is to install the Snap package that is curated by Alan Pope. He is one of the many great contributors to not just Snapcraft but the whole Linux ecosystem. This application functionally works well in openSUSE with the only issue being the Snap doesn’t follow my Qt theme, which is actually expected considering it hasn’t been “Snapped” up yet.

https://snapcraft.io/mgba

Set Up

There was, quite literally, nothing to do here but set the keyboard input to my liking. Since this HP EliteBook I am using doesn’t have what I would consider good cursor keys, I have, instead, chosen to use the “WASD” layout for movement and the right hand for the rest of the buttons. This works for me, for now.

I am not sure I am real attached to the Select and Start assignment of Backspace and Return, respectively but I am going with it for now. I think I may have had a better setup on VisualBoy Advance but the keyboard was also different for the machine for which I was using it on.

The default for the Snap Package had this for the default.

Games Played

Much like I did with VisualBoy Advance I played the few ROMs I keep on my local drive. I suppose I should expand my horizons with gameplay but here I am. I like what I like so I will rehash those same games. The games I tested were “Pokémon Red,” “Super Mario Land,” and “The Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening.”

Super Mario Land

Not much to report here. It works as expected, everyone that has had a Game Boy has played this and it doesn’t push the emulator to its limits. The game scrolls nice and smooth as you would expect the game to do. The colors are what you would expect the Game Boy Color to provide to you. It is all around a satisfactory experience. I do think that using a controller is far better than the keyboard but of course, personal preference on that one.

The Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening

I didn’t get far with this at all. I find the game a bit… involved and since I don’t have the attention-span for more than one adventure stye of game, I only dabbled with this a bit. I do think the intro screen, even for today, is just great to look at. The pixel art is well done, the charm in the sound effects and the game play is also absolutely top notch.

Pokémon Red

This worked quite nicely on mGBA. Not a whole lot of time was play on it, just progressing a bit in hopes of one day actually beating the game so I can move onto the next game. The emulator does seem to run nice and buttery smooth which I would evaluate to be a bit better than Visualboy Advance.

Most of my time on mGBA was spent here. I can’t say that the experience is any worse than actual hardware and my preferred actual hardware is the Super Game Boy on the SNES. The benefit here is that the play is more portable as I always have a laptop with me and not a Game Boy or SNES.

Interesting Features

Force Integer Scaling

Actual Size after you trim off that boarder, so pretty dang small.

This is an interesting feature in that it essentially forces exact pixel reproduction. So, there is no partial pixels or strange scaling artifacts. To be fair, for my untrained eye on a 14″ 1080p screen, this isn’t what I would consider necessary since you are scaling a 160 × 144 screen for Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Game Boy Advance has 240×160 which is still pretty small. The scaling on a modern screen is not going to be as much of an issue. None the less, you may have some uses for this and it is, indeed, interesting. If you personally have any uses for this, please leave a comment below, send an email, or Telegram message. I would be interested in knowing.

Bilinear Filtering

This is a nice feature in that it softens the appearance of the display. If you don’t like the harsh, sharp pixel edges and would like to have something closer to the feel of playing on an old CRT or maybe the harsh lines just don’t suit you, this is a fine option. I am back and forth on this. I find it interesting but the removal of it wouldn’t leave me at a loss.

Sprites

There is a very interesting utility in mGBA that allows you to look at all the sprite tiles. What makes this cool is the ability to see how the the images are stored in the game. You can brows by address and see all the bits and so forth. I found myself rather intrigued with this utility and my curiosity has me exploring other games to see how they break down the sprite tiles.

There are other features that I do think are interesting but these would be my top choices. Feel free to dig further into the settings to adjust some of the other enhancements. I have left my Audio driver to be SDL and my Display Driver at OpenGL. I don’t have any lagging, audio out-of-sync presentation, or flickering affecting my enjoyment of playing any games. My general modus operandi is to leave things as they are and only tweak the settings I don’t like.

What I Like

This is a very well built, designed and highly functional Game Boy emulator. The features are what I need and even gives me more things to play with and dig into the games themselves. The filtering and exact, pixel scaling is nice to have, interesting but for my purposes, a nice to have. I do like that this is an RPM that I can install on any openSUSE system, so long as I add the “Emulators” repository.

The game play is great. I like that I can keep the game in windowed mode or go full screen when I don’t have to pay attention to the more important things. Though, I have demonstrated all the interactions with the games showing the window boarder, that can easily be hidden or not seen at all in full screen mode. I just happen to like to see my menu bar at the bottom of the screen. Personal preference.

The saved game files from using VisualBoy Advance work in mGBA, that tells me that there are some fundamental bits that they are sharing and I do appreciate that greatly. For those that are prone to hop around and try different emulator projects, this is good to know and gives me a standard by which to further evaluate other, similar applications.

What I Don’t Like

There was only one thing that I didn’t particularly care for in my usage of mGBA. Not a major issue or deal breaker in using mGBA, but I was not able to turn off the Super Game Boy boarder for “Pokémon Red.” I could have probably done some digging but it wasn’t self evident.

With the pallet utility, there doesn’t seem to be the fun pallet switching feature that is available in Visualboy Advance. You can adjust the Pallet but not with the same drop-down menu choosing ease for switching. Truthfully, this is not an issue for me, that was a “nice to have” with Visualboy Advance and the novelty wore off quickly. I am just making a note of this feature not existing.

Final Thoughts

There are continued advancements in emulation of these nostalgic gaming systems from my youth. I really hope that they will continue to be developed, improved and refined as time goes marches forward. The preservation of video game history is just as important as any other cultural preservation of our past. It is an art, a historical technical achievement and there is some charm to be had by exploring the vastness of games with such limited computational resources available at the time. There is something to be said for the creative ingenuity that game designers had to have to make the games visually appealing and enjoyable to play. My hats off in respect and gratitude for not only the original programmers and engineers but those that are working to preserve the bits of our cultural heritage in digital form.

References

https://daid.github.io/GBEmulatorShootout/
https://gbdev.io/
http://mgba.io/
https://software.opensuse.org/package/mgba
https://www.flathub.org/apps/details/io.mgba.mGBA
https://snapcraft.io/mgba
VisualBoy Advance | Gameboy Emulation on Linux
https://popey.com/

Linking a TI-86 Calculator with openSUSE

Since there is a part of me still stuck in 1998, I do enjoy using my Texas Instruments TI-86 calculator for math things. When I have a complex equation that my middle-aged brain just can’t seem to work out, I reach for my trusty old TI-86. It has been a faithful companion that has been by my side, may math crunching crutch for over 22 years. I still have some of the same rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries from Rayovac that still seem to work.

I have written and used many little programs, especially early on in my mechanical design career to accelerate the task and after some time. Early on in my TI-86 time, I use a link cable that connected from the bottom of the calculator to the serial port of my Windows 98 machine. Times have since moved on a bit and today the DB9 Serial interface has been replaced with a USB-A style interface.

The question today, using Linux was, what application do I use to access my calculator? Texas Instruments only have Windows and Mac applications for download. Thanks to the open source community of wonderfully talented individuals, there is an option that is available to me from the openSUSE Community Repositories.

TiLP2

This is a recursive acronym for TiLP Is a Linking Program, like many early open source projects of this nature used (Wine anybody?). I think they could use a better meaning for TiLP2 but it isn’t like I am deeply invested in the project, I just use it from time to time to back things up. I am quite sure it is available for all the flavors of Linux packaging but in my case, I am using the Open Build Service from the openSUSE project.

https://software.opensuse.org/package/tilp2

From here I selected the latest version from the various community repositories and since this isn’t exactly a fast moving application, as in, I don’t believe there has been a meaningful update since 2013. It could probably use a rewrite of the GUI at some point. I am certain it is using GTK2. A Qt version would be nice.

Next, you are going to have to ensure the user is added to the necessary groups, coincidentally, are the same groups needed for interacting with my Arduino devices. This can be done in terminal like this:

sudo usermod -a -G dialout,lock,uucp

This can also be done by going into YaST > User and Group Management and edit the specific user that requires these positions.

When you first run the application, you are presented a rather dated, yet highly straight forward, interface.

The next thing you will have to do is configure the application to talk to your calculator

There is a feature to have it detect your link cable and device but it does not automatically change the settings. In my case, I have the “SilverLink” and a TI86 so I have to change the “Cable” and “Calc” sections accordingly. When you select, OK, and select refresh / reload button contents of the calculator memory was

The next step for me was to download and transfer some applications to the calculator. The best place I have found, to date, is ticalc.org. This is a great site, largely because it looks like 2002 but more importantly, it is a fast and responsive, no cruft kind of web site. There is a section of Archives that is broken down by the various calculator types. I chose the “86”, then went to the “TI-86 Assembly Files” and from there I started exploring.

Assembly files need to be launched from a “Shell” program. I went with iShell because of the rating. The shell is an important application that is needed in order to launch assembly applications. Without it, I’m not sure how you would launch the application. Perhaps there is a clever way to do it and I just don’t know.

Then I downloaded a few games, because, why not?

zTetris is a winner in my book, so is Mario86. I am impressed to see the monochromatic graphical wonders of 1990s technology. There has been much time invested on games that had to be packed into an incredibly small memory footprint.

The process on the interface to transfer the programs to the calculator is very simple. Just drag and drop from the computer files to the calculator files and you are done. The process to transfer is very quick, as the file sizes are small.

It should be noted, that downloading Assembly files will require the shell program to run. The Basic files do not. I have only put games back on this calculator for the nostalgic fun of it. Every once in a while, I will turn on that 22 year old mathematical tool and smile a bit as I play one of these games.

Where the calculator applications really shine is the science and math categories. The physics solver and resistors calculator has been very valuable and even though mobile devices and applications on Linux are far better in many ways, there is something raw, fast, and efficient about it.

Other Features of Note

Some other functions that should be noted on this application is the ability to backup and restore the contents of the calculator. Depending on how much you use your calculator and what you have stored on it, the need to back it up may be absolutely necessary, especially if you have written many programs.

You can do a screen capture of the calculator but seemingly not when running some of the assembly programs. I am not exactly sure the value of this if it cannot be done at any time.

If you intend on emulating the TI Calc environment on your computer, you will need to do a ROM dump as the ROM is not freely distributable. This process did take some time to accomplish and I messed it up the first time too. Thankfully, there was no harm done doing so.

What I Like

TiLP2 is a simple and efficient application for accessing and interacting with your TI Calculator. The ability to just drag and drop an application onto the calculator, without having to fiddle with the calculator is incredibly convenient. Since I only have a TI 86, I can only tell you how well it works with that device.

The setup is trivial for serial communication on over the USB interface. There were no special drivers required to make the SilverLink work. It was literally plug and play. TiLP2 can detect the cable and device to help you along with the process as well.

Although I didn’t cover the other great features, like backing up and restoring the calculator is another fantastic feature I wish I could have discovered sooner. I had the unfortunate event happen where my TI-86 froze or crashed and I consequently lost everything on the thing. My only solution to recover the calculator was to remove the memory battery. That’s the way goes, sometimes.

What I Don’t Like

The interface is dated and also of older GTK stock so there are some visual issues with the application but it is only a small annoyance. It would be nice to see this application updated with a newer Qt toolkit to make it from this decade.

The documentation on Linux, as to what ports need to be opened for communication isn’t completely clear. I was only made aware of this because of my Arduino fun I have been having. Hopefully, in writing this, I am able to help someone out there find that answer.

Final Thoughts

Graphing calculators are fun things. In some ways, they are the single board, low power computer of the 90s that people would hobby on. Today, they are still incredibly useful devices that can help you work out mathematical problems. They are great, handheld problem solvers and I, frankly, cannot go back to the simple calculator anymore. I am kicking myself for not having taken the time to discover TiLP sooner, before my calculator crashed hard and I lost all the things I made. Being able to backup and transfer programs you write or variable values is certainly useful.

After toying around with this, I can’t help but think, maybe I should get into the TI Calc collecting game. I have no use for more than what I have now but it would be neat to see the development of Texas Instruments calculators over the generations. I wonder what the newer devices have to offer that my old Ti-86 can’t do.

References

https://software.opensuse.org/package/tilp2
https://www.ticalc.org
https://www.ticalc.org/basics/calculators/ti-86.html
https://sourceforge.net/projects/tilp/

Webcamoid | The Best Webcam App For The Linux Desktop

I wrote an article for Front Page Linux about the wonders of the best webcam application for use on Desktop Linux. Rather than publish it here where a dozen or so people will skip through the front door, I decided to put in someplace that receives a fantastic stream of traffic. This is a great application of which people need to be aware. Front Page Linux is part of the Destination Linux Network and has a ton of great articles written by a community of astonishingly talented technology enthusiasts.

Continue Reading on FrontPageLinux.com

Microsoft Teams on openSUSE

It is still strange for me to see that Microsoft is building software for Linux. Frankly, they are a bit hit and miss on the quality but I think that might actually be a general Microsoft trait. I am just grateful that they are putting time, effort and resources to Linux. Even if their applications still needs a bit of polish, I’ll cut them some slack because they are kind of new to the whole Desktop Linux thing.

There are three viable options for getting a functional instance of Teams on Linux. Neither options is 100% but maybe one if these will work for you. Okay, there are other options too as you can just run Teams in a browser, or even use something like Rambox if all else fails. My main reason for wanting a desktop application is the ability to click on a link from an email to get to a Microsoft Teams meeting.

Option 1 – The Microsoft Provided RPM

I read an article on FOSS Adventures that extolled the joys of installing and running Microsoft Teams on openSUSE using the RPM. When I read this, I hadn’t been using the RPM but it was clear that it works as you would expect on openSUSE. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for me, initially.

Installation

Microsoft provides two options for installation on Linux, an RPM and a DEB. In this case for openSUSE, RPM is the appropriate choice.

Download Teams from Microsoft here.

Download the RPM and navigate to that folder, right-click and Open With YaST Software.

Alternatively, you can install the package in the terminal by navigating to the download folder and run the installation command there:

sudo zypper install teams-1.3.00.30857-1.x86_64.rpm

The version may have changed since the time of this writing so be cognisant of that fact.

Once installed, run it and log into the application with your Microsoft credentials.

The application runs, seemingly without any issue but you will find out that there is an issue that is rather significant, you cannot access your camera and microphone. When you hover over the drop down for speaker, microphone or camera, you get an “X” over it and there is nothing you can do to change the device settings.

Microsoft Teams no speaker no camera or microphone

After a lot of digging and looking through the many posts on this forum. The solution that seems to work most of the time is to add specific groups to the user account. If you add video, pulse and audio, you will the have the camera and microphone working on Teams most of the time.

This can be accomplished using the YaST User and Group Management Module to modify the group permissions for the respective user of Teams.

Alternatively, this can be accomplished in terminal like this as the root user.

usermod -a -G dialout,lock,uucp <USER_NAME>

replace <USER_NAME> with your user name.

After you log out and log back in, you should now have functional microphone and camera inputs. I can confirm that this worked on the two systems with which I use Teams.

Microsoft supplied Teams RPM on openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshot 20210205 with working camera and microphone.

I very happily used Microsoft Teams on openSUSE seemingly without any issue but I do still seem to have a bug where from time to time the application cannot access the input devices. I am not able to definitively say what causes it but I do believe it has to do with the system suspending and resuming. It doesn’t happen every time but it does happen. The only way I can seemingly fix the problem is to logout / login or reboot the computer. More investigation here is necessary.

The primary reason that I prefer using the RPM over the Snap is that should you receive a link to a meeting from an external application. Opening it will properly connect you to the appropriate meeting. That doesn’t seem to work with the Snap but maybe a fix will arrive for that soon.

Bottom line, the RPM this is not without its problems. Although it works quite well most of the time, there are issues with the application accessing the camera and microphone at the most inopportune moments.

Option 2 – Snapcraft Store

Here is an option that works incredibly reliably as far as camera and microphone input is concerned but doesn’t seem to process MSTEAMS links at all. I am not able to click on a link from an email and get to the meeting. This is unfortunate and if this one thing did work, I would use it.

In order to install this Snap on openSUSE, first you have to set up the Snap repo. Use these fantastically written directions here:

https://snapcraft.io/docs/installing-snap-on-opensuse

Then, install using the terminal:

sudo snap install teams-for-linux

Or, you can also use the Snap-Store which provides a fantastic graphic interface for searching and installing Snap applications… but that is another conversation for another time.

The Snap application is a client using Electron and is essentially a Web App that is a stand alone application.

Option 3 – Official Microsoft Teams Preview Snap

Lets call this a bonus because at the beginning of me writing this little article, I was not aware of this option. The publisher of this Snap is from Microsoft Teams and essentially carries the same “Preview” label as the RPM package.

sudo snap install teams

or navigate here

https://snapcraft.io/teams

In my short testing, it retains the benefit of the does but has the same issue where I cannot join a meeting from a link. This could, perhaps, be an issue with permissions on my system, I can’t say for sure at this time.

Final Thoughts

Teams on Linux isn’t a perfect experience… yet, but it’s getting there. There are options that do work for me mostly well. There is a bit of bug squashing that has to happen but I am sure those fixes are coming. For the most part, it is a very workable system and I am able to accomplish my work. The RPM is currently my preferred method, mostly because I do get links via email to join a meeting. The Snap version, on the other head tends to work more reliably for camera and microphone access.

I am grateful for being able to access Teams from my Linux machine, even if I have to fiddle a bit with it, I find that to be preferable to using it on Windows or even Android. The Linux Desktop tends to make working with applications, proprietary, or open, far more enjoyable. Teams is no exception in that regard.

References

https://opensuse.org
FOSS Adventures – Microsoft Teams on Linux
docs.microsoft.com microphone-for-teams-on-linux-not-working
Set up Snaps on openSUSE
Snap-Store page

CUPS-PDF | Print to PDF from any Application

I’m sure this isn’t new to anyone, certainly not to me but after using another operating system for a bit I was really annoyed and wanted to just highlight what a wonderful thing this “printer” is for openSUSE and any other Linux distribution, for that matter. Sometimes, I think it is good to reflect on the the great things we take for granted here in Linux land.

Installation

For openSUSE, you can simply type this in terminal

sudo zypper install cups-pdf

or if you prefer the point-and-click method navigate here and be sure to choose the correct version of openSUSE:

https://software.opensuse.org/package/cups-pdf

That is all there is to it. According to Zypper, this takes up all of 221.9 KiB of drive space so this is pretty insignificant and for outdated for the benefits this provides.

Why?

There are a couple of reasons why the print to PDF as a kind of pseudo or virtual printer is a great feature to have:

Number 1

I have historically, while not thinking clearly, printed something I shouldn’t have because I just CTRL+P with a rapid strike of the enter key to print something. Immediately following, I would see an error in document. It could have been anything from a typo to a formatting error and I would have wasted time because the cancel button never actually cancels the print. The printer goes through this process where it thinks about cancelling the print for several minutes. Basically, it gives you that spinning circle thing until you forcibly shut the thing down. All the while you are thinking about how you should have just let the printer do its thing and you could have just used the wasted paper for something else.

Number 2

Some online training sites don’t let you export that certificate directly as a PDF so your option really comes down to printing it to the printer because for whatever reason, the Firefox print dialog wouldn’t pop up, it would be some sort of oddball thing that only provided actual printers.

Number 3

I am an old man, largely, stuck in my ways. There are certain, old, applications I enjoy using and at the same time need the print to pdf option. This gives me that option, system wide, that I can use whenever necessary.

Solution

CUPS-PDF provides a printer for the system that generates a PDF to the user’s specified location. In the case of openSUSE, both Leap and Tumbleweed, perhaps other distributions it will dump them here:

/var/spool/cups-pdf/USER

Rather than change the configuration file for the cups-pdf printer, I went the easy way and made a link to that location of pdf output to my home folder

ln -s /var/spool/cups-pdf/USER ~/cups-pdf

You can of course do this graphically as well, if that is what you prefer. In that case, using your favorite file manager (like Dolphin), navigate to the aforementioned location, drag and drop, using the “Link Here” option.

Use

It’s pretty simple, really, after installing the “virtual printer” it makes itself available to the system.

What is great about this is, when running old Windows applications through Wine or Crossover Linux that don’t have access to the Plasma print-to-file, I can just print to this virtual device called CUPS-PDF.

This very nicely leverages the very basic capabilities provided by my Linux desktop environment for some of those older and obscure applications I still enjoy using. Truly, a wonderful piece of open source software that is perhaps often overlooked by all the new and shiny things created today.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t any great, new feature in Linux but one that has been there and working for me day after day for nearly 20 years in some form. It is such a simple thing, uses very few resources and adds some valuable functionality. The great thing is, this is just a built-in feature to openSUSE and other Linux distributions that don’t require adding some obscure application.

This is yet another reason why I love using Linux and open source software. It allows me the freedom to work how I want to work, capture and archive things the way I see fit and just be happy in my little digital world.

References

openSUSE Home
https://software.opensuse.org/package/cups-pdf

Bpytop on openSUSE | Terminal

I recently published an article about how great Bashtop is on openSUSE, and when I was nearly done with it, I was told about Bpytop. Since I was going through the final edit, I didn’t just want to dump what I did before but rather, follow it up with Bpytop. I am not sure how far behind the curve I am now and maybe there is something even cooler out there but before anyone tells me what the latest hotness is in terminal, system monitoring applications, I am feverishly writing about this.

What is so great about Bpytop?

If you are a nerd about what your system is doing and like to see the numbers, charts graphs, etc, and you have previously enjoyed Bashtop, Bpytop is going to send tingles of joy down your finger tips. The little bits of information it gives you from CPU load, load average, and frequency is superb. The chart it produces on the CPU usage looks fantastic and really makes you wonder how they accomplished this when it is only in text mode. Truly a feat of terminal engineering!

Installation

At the time of writing, the two ways you can go about installing bpytop is installing the snap or directly installing the application using PyPi. I opted for the PyPi method this time. Within the terminal enter this to install or upgrade.

pip3 install bpytop --upgrade

Once installed, a simple entering of bpytop in the terminal will start the application in all it’s splendor.

This should work for all distributions of Linux but there are other installation options here:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bpytop

Features

For starters, there are three viewing modes, for your pleasure, with Bpytop. Full, the only option in Bashtop, Proc, shows CPU and process table, and Stat, which just shows graphs and current statistics of the CPUs, Memory, Disks and network.

Much of what you expect from bashtop is here but there are a few additions and changes have been made that are very welcome enhancements. For starters the remaining battery indicator.

Running this on my Plasma desktop it is not a critical addition under normal use but I can think of several other situations where this would be valuable to have in the terminal. It’s a nice addition.

The CPU view was mostly the same, no real changes here. The biggest change is Core being replaced by “C” for each core. Presumably to reduce wasted space. Personally, I am fine with either notation. I still think this is the best use of the top of the display layout. The interesting bits of information concerning the CPU like frequency, load average, and load per core as well as temperature.

The disk display is improved with having disk activity indicators by partition. At a glance, that makes this section far more useful. There is a lot of value in this for numerous reasons. This is a splendid addition to this system monitor and I must say, my favorite change from Bashtop.

I am on the fence about the change to the memory graph look. By simply pressing “g”, you can change from graph to to bars quite nicely.

The Swap memory / partition is by default in the disks section but by pressing “s”, Swap will appear with the rest of the memory section. I prefer it with memory but I see the logic in having it with the rest of the disk space.

The network section of Bpytop has some fantastic enhancements. The most exciting feature here is the network adapter selection. Pressing “b” and “n” will cycle through the different interfaces on the system.

The process table has a few additional features. Like before you can filter the process list by pressing “f” but now you can look at process by core, or in a tree of processes. There is certainly a lot of utility in that capability.

Just as before you can interact with the processes by killing them and what not.

Bpytop has a menu much like Bashtop pressing “M” will bring to to it. The coloring is a bit different but the menu is largely the same with the fancy lettering and such. Also, note: “m” changes the display mode”

There are a lot more options than before. So many, in fact that it has to be broken up into multiple pages. Many of these options are able to be triggered in the view mode, such as Swap preferences. If you do not like the Color theme, for whatever reason, there are options there too. Three viewing modes are available in Bpytop. Full is my preference but if you just want processes, or stats, that is also available.

I have taken some note on system resource usage and it appears that Bashtop uses less memory but Bpytop uses fewer CPU resources. I do want to make sure I make it clear that I am not using a very thorough analysis process to determine this.

The “Help” menu item give you a list with an explanation of what each key sequence does. There are a lot more commands in Bpytop than there were in Bashtop. The new toggles are identified in this list which is helpful for those new to this application.

Overall Bpytop has very similar visual characteristics to Bashtop. There is a bit more polish to Bpytop and the interface is more responsive. The fading of process list is very slick which again makes the application feel a lot more like a graphical utility than a terminal based one. Like Bashtop, Bpytop provides a very easy to digest, visually appealing overview of what various aspects of your system is doing, that is more aesthetically pleasing and the interaction significantly improved.

Depending on what you are trying to extract from your system monitoring, Bpytop is super handy and may even be considered, super FUN. The interactions with your system through this application are notably enhanced. The layout modes, memory graphs and disk activity are phenomenal features that, if nothing else, are fun to watch.

What I Like

Bpytop cleverly uses some less commonly seen ASCII characters to almost suspend the idea that you are in a text only terminal. It certainly gives the impression the possibility that it is a grpahically driven tool. Bpytop is a very modern looking and incredibly useful application that has a high level of refinement to it.

The multiple display modes of this application is done very well which has likely been established through a user feedback mechanism. The three modes of Full, Proc and Stat adjust the panes for the purpose that best suits your requirements. Though I prefer the full, filling the terminal window with just the system statistics looks pretty great.

The menu system in Bpytop, like Bashtop, is superb. There is so much to adjust and dig into on this application. The “help” screen is also very informative and necessary until you get used to what each keystroke does. Having it tied to “h” and “F1” makes accessing it intuitive as well.

What I Don’t Like

Bpytop is not as light on resources as top or htop but I truly believe that it is worth every byte and CPU cycle, just for the overall visually satisfying experience and value of information. I respect the argument for just using top to get a quick terminal snapshot but the user interface of Bpytop is much more intuitive and accessible.

This is not a big deal as one quick terminal command and it is installed but Bpytop is not in the official openSUSE Leap or Tumbleweed repositories. I think this should be standard fair on openSUSE because of how awesome it is.

Final Thoughts

Not long after becoming aware of Bashtop, I was presented with Bpytop and before all this fancy new terminal goodness came to me, was happy enough using htop. My terminal world has changed. The bar has been raised and the terminal has become even more fun. Where were applications like this just a few short years ago? I am very thankful for the creative expression in the terminal applications of today. Bpytop is a fantastic application, terminal or not and I highly recommend anyone give this is a try and tell me what they think of it. This again underscores that Linux and open source software is simply brilliant!

References

Bpytop from Github
Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

Bashtop on openSUSE | Terminal

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

What is Bashtop and why do I care?

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

Installation

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

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

Alternatively, check out this resource for other Linux Distributions:

https://github.com/aristocratos/bashtop

Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

Bashtop from software.opensuse.org
Bashtop from Github

Noodlings 22 | On the Edge

Click here for the 22nd single serving sized podcast episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

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

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

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

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

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

FISH | Friendly Interactive SHell on openSUSE

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

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

Branded vs Unbranded Laptop Batteries

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

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

Halloween Festive Lights

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

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

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

BDLL Followup

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

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

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

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

openSUSE Corner

openSUSE Community to Have Kickoff Session for Leap 15.3

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

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

Tumbleweed Roundup

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

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Computer Entrepreneurs (1984)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Ventoy | Multi-ISO Bootable USB Drive Made Easy

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

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

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

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

Alternatively, you can use the tar command in the terminal

tar xvzf ventoy*.tar.gz

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

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

Installation

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

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

Or you can go the terminal route and type in:

lsblk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Ventoy

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

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

Update

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

References

https://www.ventoy.net/

Microsoft Edge Browser on openSUSE Linux

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

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

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

Installation

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

Microsoft Edge Download

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Run and Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Performance

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

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

Memory Usage

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

What I Like

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

References

Microsoft Edge Download
openSUSE.org
Firefox browser
Falkon browser