So, the title could be “Network Diagramming with LibreOffice Draw on whatever operating system” but since I use openSUSE primarily, there you go. I know it works on openSUSE, I can’t say for sure if it will work for you. Chances are it will.
I looked at few pieces of software but didn’t like either the price or the operating system selection. Then I thought… LibreOffice Draw… I know that I can make boxes and connecting lines. Maybe there are some images I can find?
The goal here is to make me less important in this project and try to get others on board so that, should I get hit by the proverbial bus, someone else is going to have to take control and need to know what is where and how to access it.
Searching around the World Wide Web, I found this shape gallery from VRT.com that has the images I need to put together a basic network diagram to show how things are laid out. At the bottom of the page, I selected VRTnetworkequipment_1.2.0-oo.oxt LibreOffice. Your version may vary, especially if you aren’t using openSUSE.
Installing this gallery of images is trivial, locate the download and open it with LibreOffice.
The filetype should already be associated. Select okay to confirm installation and you are done.
I made a simple diagram to communicate the layout of the network, it is a rough drawing and I don’t really know what I am doing but it is a simple visual that is a “good start”.
I at lest now have a basic visual as a frame of reference, and in the Lean Product Development, world a visual reference helps to identify Knowledge Gaps.
What I like
I didn’t have to go out and buy new software. I simply had to download an add-on to existing software, LibreOffice Draw. Adding the graphic components to LibreOffice was simple, download and run to install.
Using LibreOffice Draw is intuitive. It’s all drag and drop. You find the image you want that is now installed, click and drag it onto the
What I Don’t Like
There isn’t a text box immediately below or beside that is tied to the image for description of the component. It’s not a big deal as click-dragging to create a selection box around the objects to move them multiple items around works just as well. This is just being picky, really.
How It’s Working Out
I was able to create a “Phase 1” of the network plan and begin a course of action for the “Phase 2” of the network upgrades. Using Draw helps me to be able to communicate with the real network professional, my brother-in-law, so that we are aligned on where network is at, and where it needs to go. The next phases are almost entirely over my head but I will gladly help document what is done using this tool and others.
I spent a lot of time looking for software solutions, played with one other but realized that LibreOffice Draw can do the job quite nicely at the price I can afford. It is a testament to the LibreOffice Project and all the work that has gone into it. It reminds me that I should donate to the project to do my part to help keep it going.
I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this handy little application but it’s great. It is used for watching YouTube videos without the bloat of a browser or having to log into Google for subscriptions. There is a lot to like about this application as it provides, in many ways, a better YouTube experience. As of recent, it seems like YouTube is getting more bloated with features you don’t need and is getting increasingly irritating to use. There is a drawback, I do want to “like” and occasionally comment on videos to which you cannot do with Minitube but at least you are giving the content creators another “view”.
When visiting the Minitube home page that there is a Windows, Mac and Ubuntu version available, there isn’t a listed option for openSUSE, not even mentioned but that is not a problem. Some fantastic member of the openSUSE community has taken care of it for you and it is in the official repository for both Leap and Tumbleweed. The easiest method of installation is to utilize the one-click installation method here:
Alternatively, you can jump into a nice cozy terminal and fire this off:
sudo zypper install minitube
Once installed, it shows up in the menu under the “Multimedia” section.
When you start it up, you are greeted with a simple screen where you can search for your desired video. It is just that easy.
Alternatively, you can browse for content based on topic of which they have listed 11 topics to choose: Most Popular, Film & Animation, Autos & Vehicles, Music, Pets & Animals, Sports, Gaming, Comedy, Entertainment, How to & Style and Science & Technology.
Once you have subscribed to a channel, that is stored locally only and you can review those subscriptions in the Subscriptions “tab”. There you can watch what is new on that particular channel. Alternatively, you can select “All Videos” or “Unwatched Videos.”
A nice feature here is that, if you select All Videos or Unwatched Videos, it will make a kind of playlist intermixing the different channels, sorted by newest to oldest allowing you to just let it run if you so choose.
Should you want to subscribe to a particular channel, there is a small bookmark looking icon next to the channel name. The icon is a bit counter-intuitive as it shows the bookmark with a red “X” when you have subscribed.
A fantastic feature, that is great if you have kids, is a “Restricted Mode” which hides videos that may contain inappropriate content. I don’t know how effective the filter is but even if it is partially successful, I would at least call that partially a success.
What I Like
This client is fast and efficient. It doesn’t have all the irritating lagging of using YouTube in a browser. Although that can be fixed in Firefox so that it doesn’t lag as much, this is still much faster. I like the way it handles subscriptions, does not require signing into Google, does protect users at least somewhat with a restricted mode.
If you watch something and want to go to the YouTube page to comment, like or look at the description, it is as easy as a right-click and “Open In Browser” or Ctrl+B.
I like how it turns your subscriptions into a playlist automatically. This is handy if you have a bunch of videos to catch up on and you have to knock out a few baskets of laundry in the living room.
What I Don’t Like
There are a few bugs. Very often, stopping the video will only stop it momentarily and it will continue when you are on another tab of the player. The navigation of the application is a bit clunky. When watching a video, there isn’t an obvious way to navigate around back to your subscriptions page or to the Browse page.
Just as much as it is a positive that this doesn’t talk to your Google account, I also think that it is somewhat unfortunate that it doesn’t connect somewhere so that you can keep track of what you have watch across machines. Perhaps a future feature but there are times I start a video in my “SuperCubicle” and move on to the Kitchen or the Living room computers. It would be nice to be able to keep them all synchronized. The work around for that is to check the timer to see how far you are in the video. Just a thought, but this could possibly be done with a simple config file that stores information about the last video watched that could be synchronized between machines using Syncthing.
I have been using Minitube on and off and there is a lot to like about it. First and foremost, it is efficient, uses only about 233 MiB of RAM to run the application and play a video so it is certainly lighter than running YouTube in a browser. There are also a few nitnoid issues with it but I am certain those will smooth out over time.
I highly encourage you to try Minitube to see if this is something that would make sense for you. It is a visually nice interface, very responsive and pretty straight forward to use. It does give you the option to jump into a browser to watch the video so there really is nothing lost in using this over exclusively using the browser. Personally, I do see this as a fine piece of software that I am thankful to have.
I recently became increasingly annoyed using the Touchpad portion of this wireless keyboard. Touchpads just are not as efficient as a real mouse. The touchpad is fine for very simple navigation but for doing anything that requires much traversing around the screen combined with much left and right-mouse button clicking is almost unusable. Maybe if this keyboard had real left and right mouse buttons, this wouldn’t be so bad.
I happened to have an orphaned Logitech receiver doing nothing in one of my many drawers of horded electronics. All I needed was a mouse to pair up with it. Since this one is one of those Logitech Unifying Receivers, all I needed was a Logitech mouse that was compatible with it. I went to my favorite place to buy used electronics, eBay, to get the cheapest thing I could find. I came upon a Logitech M185 Wireless Mouse which I ended up winning for $3.00, so a great deal.
Next, I had to pair this newly acquired mouse with my Unifying Receiver. To do so, I needed to install the Ltunify application.
Like nearly everything on openSUSE, installing software through the official, experimental or community repositories is easy to do. The easiest method is using the one-click installation from here:
Once the application is installed, I just typed ltunify -h in the terminal to see the help and gain some understanding on how to use this.
# ltunify -h
Usage: ltunify [options] cmd [cmd options]
Logitech Unifying tool version
Copyright (C) 2013 Peter Wu <firstname.lastname@example.org>
-d, –device path Bypass detection, specify custom hidraw device.
-D Print debugging information
-h, –help Show this help message
list – show all paired devices
pair [timeout] – Try to pair within “timeout” seconds (1 to 255,
default 0 which is an alias for 30s)
unpair idx – Unpair device
info idx – Show more detailed information for a device
receiver-info – Show information about the receiver
In the above lines, “idx” refers to the device number shown in the
first column of the list command (between 1 and 6). Alternatively, you
can use the following names (case-insensitive):
Keyboard Mouse Numpad Presenter Trackball Touchpad
From here I could see that this was going to be super simple. As root, I ran this
Then turned the mouse on immediately. As soon as the mouse paired the terminal returned to the command prompt. To verify the mouse was paired, I ran the command
To which I was happy to see that the new mouse was now paired along with the broken mouse I once had.
To remove that device no longer being used, that is just as easy as pairing
ltunify unpair 1
Now my receiver is happily paired exclusively with the new mouse for my Kitchen Command Center Computer and I am no longer encumbered by a buttonless touchpad, navigating around a spreadsheet, document or anything of that nature.
Logitech is pretty awesome for having this Unifying Receiver device. It makes losing a dongle to a Logitech mouse or keyboard not such a big deal. It even frees up ports as you can have one receiver paired with 6 devices. That, in my opinion, makes Logitech devices more valuable than others and so long as they keep up with this convenient-for-the-user focus. They will keep my business.
My first file manager on Linux was Konqueror. Compared to anything I at that time it was by far the best thing I’ve ever used. So many options, so many customization features and so many ways to find out information about your files. Looking at it today, I still think it is still by far the best file manager (plus) out there.
The basic openSUSE Tumbleweed installation does not include Konqueror by default but it is available in the main repository. To install enter this in the terminal:
sudo zypper install konqueror konqueror-plugins
Be sure to install the “konqueror-plugins”. Without the plugins, Konqueror doesn’t have that particularly special functionality so I recommend the plugins package.
When you start Konqueror, you are greeted with a pleasant little introduction which tells you a little bit about what Konqueror can do. The more you learn how this software works, the more you discover what you can accomplish with it. Click through the introduction to get acquainted with the product then get to work.
Konqueror has all the fine functions of a file manager, web browser and can be used as a universal document viewer. More on that last part later. I want to initially focus on the file management capabilities of Konqueror.
This isn’t anything that Dolphin, the default KDE Plasma file manger can’t do. In fact, in comparison, there are things Dolphin will do that Konqueror does not by default. To compare the two, Dolphin has side panels for quick links to places, recently saved work and details about whatever file has been selected. Konqueror does not have this.
Most basic file management will work just fine in Dolphin. Where the difference really comes in is with the plugins and some additional or more advanced built in features. The feature that stands out most is the File Size Viewer, a graphical breakdown of files, larger to smaller and the size they take up relative to the overall whole of the directory in question. It sorts the directories by size so at a glance you can see what is taking up your disk space.
I have yet to see this particular feature in any other file management tool. From what I can tell, this feature stands alone and it is absolutely fantastic. It is not a daily feature but it often comes to play when I am analyzing the contents of a disk or when I have to periodically go through and clear out information from my Google Drive so that I don’t go over on my piddly 100GB allotment. I also use this to periodically look at what is taking up the most space. In my case, I have a bunch of VMs on my drive cluttering things up.
The next rather fantastic feature of Konqueror is the ability to make your time managing files productively enjoyable. It has the ability to split up the window into panes where each pane can be where ever you want it to be and view them how you want them to be viewed. You can even open up a Terminal Emulator. I have used this to monitor Rsync operations. If you do file transfers with webdav, ftp, sftp and so forth, this will give you a great way to manage files.
But wait, there’s more!
Each of those panes can be changed to show file locations as you see fit. I can have a File Size View, Detailed View or even just open up another terminal emulator. To the untrained eye, I can give the illusion that I am way smarter and more productive than I actually am.
Konqueror also has a real decent web browser. It is a very capable browser and can be another tab in the same window. It uses either the default KHTML rendering engine or optionally Webkit. I don’t use it as a browser so much lately as Falkon has largely taken that role away but when I want to look at a page with an alternate browser, Konqueror is the tool I use.
The last bit I am going to cover is the ability to embed other applications within Konqueror. Applications like Okular, the document viewer, can open up a PDF or picture as a tab within Konqueror. Any application that supports KParts can be used within Konqueror. Combine that capability with the ability to split the Window into panes and your desktop really becomes like clay, a piece of digital organization art and productivity to dazzle the masses.
Konquoror doesn’t get talked about much and that is unfortunate. It is an awesome application with great capabilities. It is almost like what Chrome / ChromeOS is trying to be but just doesn’t quite hit the mark. Chrome’s version of a file browser is dismal at best. Konqueror does everything in these nice neat, little, flexible containers but with fewer system resources than what you would see on Chrome. With multiple tabs open of file management, web pages and an embedded document viewer, It is still using less than 300 MB of RAM.
Admittedly, I tend to use Dolphin and Falkon more frequently than Konqueror. Dolphin for the side pane functionality and Falkon tends to to a better job of rendering pages than Konqueror. When it comes to serious file management, where I really need to dig in and do some heavy [file management] lifting, Konqueror still reigns supreme.
I am working on another project and whilst doing so, I was reintroduced to a kind of irritating problem with Desktop Linux. Nothing huge, just annoying enough. Formatting Removable or USB media. This is one area where I agree with the statement that Linux is not as easy to use as Windows. The Linux solutions work but it seems to lack some elegance.
Method #1: The Terminal
Before you start issuing any Format commands, be sure you know what the device name is. The way I prefer is by inserting the drive into the computer and and run in terminal:
You’ll see a lot of text and toward the end look for something that reads like:
[109951.128820] sd 6:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg3 type 0
[109951.128995] sd 6:0:0:0: [sdc] No Caching mode page found
[109951.128997] sd 6:0:0:0: [sdc] Assuming drive cache: write through
[109951.136745] sd 6:0:0:0: [sdc] Attached SCSI removable disk
That tells me that the device name is sdc and I know that it is mounted under /dev. So this USB drive is /dev/sdc
to verify run:
If your computer mounted the drive you can take a look at the listing. Somewhere you should see the last drive you plugged in along with the Size of the drive, How much is Used, How much Available, Use of drive as a percentage and where if anyplace it is mounted. In my case:
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sdc 7.5G 946M 6.6G 13% /run/media/cubiclenate/XFER
For the following examples, replace the “X” with your particular drive letter.
Next you need to ask yourself, do you wish to share the contents of this drive with non-Linux machines. If the answer is “yes” than you will need to format in FAT or NTFS.
Format with FAT or in this case VFAT
sudo mkfs.vfat /dev/sdX
Format with NTFS (New Technology File System), more common since Windows XP
sudo mkfs.ntfs /dev/sdX
If this drive is just for you and your Linux buddies, go with a Linux file system. They are “better” in many ways.
Format with EXT4 File System
sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdX
Or, if you are feeling it, go with XFS
sudo mkfs.xfs /dev/sdX
This process isn’t hard just not as straight forward to a new user and if you don’t spend your life in the terminal, these commands can easily be forgotten.
Method #2: Quick USB Formatter
A more graphical, KDE Plasma, friendly feeling option is this USB Format application. This is not in the Official openSUSE repositories.
What is nice about this application is that it is very straight forward. After installation, just typing USB will bring this up in the menu / quick launcher as “USB Format”. The executable is located here:
The interface is very straight forward, you select the device, in this case /dev/sdc and it will NOT allow you to select your system drives so there is no shot at making a mistake here. You can select the file system but XFS is not an option. There is a field to type in a label if you so choose as well.
Downside to this interface is that you can’t manage the partitions should you want to delete or add partitions on this drive. Also note, I am not able to format anything in the build in SD Card reader. If these are not a concern then this may be a fine solution for you.
Method #3: Gparted
Perhaps my preferred method for managing storage medium is Gparted. This is the Gnome Partition Editor and is one of the finest pieces of software I have ever used. It just does everything I need to do in a nice, intuitive, easy to use and extremely powerful tool for managing disks. It is described as an “industrial-strength” application for for creating, destroying, resizing, moving, checking and copying partitions, and the filesystems on them.
Gparted is available for both Tumbleweed and Leap, to install:
sudo zypper in gparted
This “do everything tool” for your disks will require root privileges and rightfully so. You can create space on disk for new operating systems, or even copy the file systems.
This has access to all the drives on the system, mounted or not. Also note that modification to SD Cards, as expected, is also not an issue.
This application is fantastic in how you an resize and move partitions around on a drive. The designers have taken great care in paying attention to the finer details of disk interaction.
After you are satisfied with the disk modifications, you commit to the changes by a check box labeled “Apply All Operations”.
Gparted also removes all ambiguity in what is supported with each file system. There is a great report you can review under View > File System Support.
Managing USB or Removable media isn’t exactly the most straight forward if you are new to Linux. This might not be true for all distributions or desktop interfaces but my experience on KDE Plasma over many years has been as such. Maybe it shouldn’t be a straight forward process as a user should know what they are doing before they start making any changes to any pieces of hardware and maybe it is also a non-issue as most removable media is already formatted and ready to go.
If you have any other thoughts on interacting with removable media. Please share, I am interested in knowing if there are other or better options out there.
CrossOver Linux recently released version 18.0.0 (2018) which was another fine release with no regressions. I have been using CrossOver Linux (at the time CrossOver Office) since 2005. At the time, I imagined that within a few years would Linux be as ubiquitous on the desktop as Windows or Mac. After all, I bought a boxed copy of Mandrake Linux in the store which sat right next to SUSE Linux. There seemed to be a lot of momentum behind it. Now, in 2018, Linux has seemingly infiltrated every other use case, servers, phones, Internet of Things but doesn’t seem to be have as much traction on the Desktop.
This may come as a surprise but there are still 3rd party applications of which I require that I cannot run in Linux. Although, I think there are fewer now than there used to be, I still find I need a Windows compatibility layer. I can do much of in with Wine, but CodeWeavers makes it so much easier to manage.
There isn’t a repository that you can add (as far as I know), so you will have to download the RPM directly from CodeWeavers. That can be done here:
Your version may vary, of course as updates and improvements are ongoing.
The fantastic feature of Crossover is that every application can be installed in it’s own bottle, the first exposure to “containers” I have ever had on Linux or any system for that matter. It is a great way to test applications without the risk of interfering with other installed applications.
The process to Install Windows Software is easy, intuitive and requires little explanation. If the application is supported by CodeWeavers or a Advocate, it is no more difficult than searching for the application. Selecting the name of it and Continue.
If the application is not supported by CodeWeavers or an Advocate, it’s still not difficult to install; as long as you have a decent knowledge of your Windows application. Keep in mind, it may or may not work at that point.
CrossOver Linux Usage
I use CrossOver almost daily, which is in contrast to using it daily some few years ago. I tend to use LibreOffice more now than Microsoft Office but I also don’t really use office products as much as it once had. The application I use most is Rosetta Stone. I have been using it on and off for several years, now I am using it to help with home educating my kids. It’s easy for any of us to use and somehow enjoyable enough to keep us consistently using it.
I tend to use Microsoft Office, mostly for Excel. As much as I like the LibreOffice Equivalent, there are just some usability features that I appreciate more in the proprietary product. I also keep it around for when I am forced to use SharePoint. As far as versions go, I much prefer Microsoft Office 2007 over 2013. The look and interface changes on 2013 feels counterintuitive, specifically when dealing with files. I’m sure it makes perfect sense for someone but just not for me.
The games I have played using CrossOver Linux, at least semi-frequently has been Descent 3 and Warcraft II Tides of Darkness. Warcraft II takes some tweaking to use as it requires the CD-ROM or at least a mounted ISO for it to load as a form of copy protection but works quite nicely. The game that I am probably most excited about is Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
It runs so incredibly smooth; far better than how I remember it running on that Pentium in the late 90s. And no… I don’t play it in windowed mode pictured above. When playing it again for the first time, it brought a smile to my face when the cut scenes played and provided a kind of choose-your-own-adventure element. Since it has been so long since I have played this, plus other things, it is almost like I am playing it again for the first time!
The next game I am excited to be able to play is Freespace 2. I didn’t purchase it when it came out in 1999 as I kind of fell off the video game train at that time. I did enjoy the previous incarnation, Descent: Freespace. They mostly got me because of “Descent” in the title. Well played, Interplay, well played.
I only just started playing this game and I already feel like I am all thumbs trying to remember all the keyboard commands. Regardless, it is as much fun as I remember the first being and I look forward to the time I will be able to unwind playing this.
Since the beginning of my time using CrossOver Linux, it has been a fantastic tool for giving me the freedom to run the applications I want on the operating system I want. It hasn’t been without its bumps but the tools they provide help very much to dig in and find out what is missing to get applications working. The supported applications seem to work as well or better than described. Interestingly, when Office 2007 was the current office suite offering from Microsoft. I found that ran better through CrossOver on Linux than it did naively in Windows. Granted, I was and still am a bit biased.
These days, it seems like most of the bumps have been ironed out for many of the applications. At least, the applications I want to run. The only application that seems to provide some difficulty is Microsoft Office 2013, the last version I purchased or ever plan to purchase. It seems to either be a little slow at times or the updater gets stuck. Since I don’t like how it looks or works, I tend to just use the 2007 version instead.
The only application just out of reach each year, forcing me to fire up a VM, is TurboTax. I try it again come tax season. It didn’t work last year or the year before… close but not quite. Maybe this year will be different.
My Involvement in the Project
In 2010 or so, my need for Windows applications increased for job reasons. Initially, I was back and forth between Wine and CrossOver Linux as my solution. It quickly became imperative, for the sake of my productivity that I needed to get and keep specific Windows applications running with high reliability. I became more and more familiar with how CrossOver handled Windows Libraries so I started to learn what was needed and kept notes on the additional software requirements needed by some applications. By 2013, I was all in, now learning how to make CrossTies for applications that were important to me and submitting them for the benefit of other users, rating applications and starting to do Beta reports on newer versions. I learned how to do Beta testing, rate applications and so forth. It is just good fun, really.
What is fun, is that you do enough for them and they give you things and make a big deal out of it.
CrossOver Linux is a tool I use regularly. I don’t use it as much as I once did so the original goal set out by the company to be a stopgap has been incredibly successful, from my point of view. I don’t see me stopping my usage of CrossOver anytime soon. If nothing else, for the gaming. It just works better than standard Wine. I am glad I have invested into this company and I am glad they continue to contribute towards Linux and the open source.
If you have any interest in this, I do highly recommend you check it out. CodeWeavers does a fantastic job and has great customer support. It is a finely polished product that makes easy work out of installing Windows applications in Linux (as well as Mac and ChromeOS). It’s certainly worth kicking the tires with a free 14 day trial. At the very worst, you won’t use it but are likely have a good experience in trying it.
CAD is not only what I do for my profession, I also do it for fun. For personal projects, I have been having a great time with using FreeCAD, a very capable and feature-full parametric modeler. With a recent resurgence of Legos in my house and falling into some web-searching rabbit holes, I stumbled upon this Lego CAD software called LeoCAD. I am currently using the AppImage on openSUSE that works fantastically well. I’m sure it will work on any modern Linux Distribution. It is also available for those “other” platforms. It can be downloaded from here:
The nice thing about AppImages is that there is nothing to do to install it. I created a folder where I keep all my AppImage files. Using Dolphin, I made the .AppImage executable so that you can just double-click to execute the file and run LeoCAD.
Beyond the cool factor of creating Legos in virtual space or loading up those childhood models and modifying them in ways that you didn’t have the parts for as a child, there are lessons you can teach kids with this software.
LeoCAD is not only an extremely enjoyable toy but it is a great tool for teaching my kids the principles of Assembly, Sub-Assembly and Master Assemblies and the some understandings of spacial relations. At the very basic level, using LeoCAD to create, you are putting pieces together to create a very basic “assembly” or model.
To put together a model you create it, much like in real life, piece by piece. There is an extensive library of parts from which to choose. You can search through by category or use the part numbers to more rapidly locate what it is that you need. Those parts can be colored from what you see in the pallet which are, from my understanding, actual Lego colors. Here is a fun fact. On Legos that are made in the 1990s-ish or newer, will have a part number molded into each part on a “non visual” surface. If your eyes are older… you might need a magnifying glass.
Another very cool feature of LeoCAD is the ability to order steps on a model. If you have a desire to create your very own instruction booklet, that can be done with LeoCAD.
Once you have created a Sub-Assembly, or as LeoCAD calls them, “Submodel” you can bring each Assembly / model in together in a “Master Assembly”.
Any assemblies or Submodels can be treated like any other Lego part. Objects are objects whether they are individual pieces or Submodels.
For whatever Submodel Tab you have selected, you can view the parts used by selecting: Submodel > Properties… then select the “Parts Used” tab. This gives you a complete list of all the individual pieces you have used in your model. If you so choose, you can take this list and purchase the necessary pieces to build your creation.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find a way to export this list into a spreadsheet, so that does complicate matters somewhat.
If you want to download some Lego Sets to spin around LeoCAD, check out the Ldraw site. You will need to know the set number to look up to get the CAD files. If you would like to look at this the previously pictured Blacktron Invader, from 1987, see here.
After some playing with LeoCAD, my boy and I began talking about what we should build. We are both fans of Star Wars and he liked all these old 1980s themed Lego space sets so we decided to put two of them together and made a “Blacktron AT-ST”. It was a good way to go head-first in really learning and understanding this software and it’s quirks.
Just building the model in LeoCAD took about a week of work. That was a few hours here and there. Much of the time spent was learning how to effectively navigate the software and fine the proper parts in the library. The actual assembly process of the pieces is pretty intuitive. You do have to play with the snap points when doing less common assembly angles but it is in no way difficult. This was probably a bit too ambitious for a first project but it was completed. There are a total of 428 parts divided into 24 submodels one of which is the Master Assembly (submodel) that all the individual models assemble into.
We took the parts list and went through the Legos we had to determine what was on hand, then we put the rest into a “wishlist” on Bricklink.com where we were then able to order the parts necessary to build it. My boy used this an entry for a craft project for the local county fair. It was fun for the both of us. Maybe me more so than him but this application along with the resources through the Internet is essentially a childhood fantasy come reality.
I want to note that this is not in any way an original design. This is heavily based on an actual licensed model and essentially recolored to look like it could fit with the rest of the Blacktron theme. Now, it is just another Lego model toy on our Lego table.
What I like
Assembling Legos in the virtual space, although not as satisfying as the snap of the genuine article, is fun and can really allow you to flesh out some ideas somewhat rapidly. The benefit is, you can take that virtual model and turn it into a real model.
Another thing I like to do with LeoCAD is documenting changes I make to a design. If I come up with an idea, I like it, I can make it in the LeoCAD and date stamp it. This way, I have the freedom to make the changes to the real model and I have a point I can go back to as a reference.
LeoCAD is very fast and snappy using only the Intel GPU. I have run it on my AMD GPU as well as and I am sure it is performing better but not so much that I can tell the difference.
It is easy to change the colors of parts of the Legos and if you are doing a virtual prototype, it is much easier to swap out the colors of parts on LeoCAD than it it is with Actual Legos.
There are all kinds of 3D models to download, look at and modify to your hearts content from Ldraw.org. If you need to look up set numbers, use this resource: brickset.com.
What I don’t Like
There isn’t much to not like about this software. There are only two issues that I have with it. There is no way to export the Bill of Material / Parts list to any kind of file. Even a way to export to CSV would be fantastic. As it stands today, you can copy only one cell at a time. Hopefully there will be an export feature in the future.
There is no collision detection between parts and pieces. So, it is possible to bury parts within parts. Some kind of “align” and “orient” option would be great too when assembling components.
Lastly, and really, least important, the UI is too light. I would prefer a dark theme. Not a big deal but it would be nice.
LeoCAD is not only a great tool for teaching the concepts of Computer Aided Design but it is an incredibly fun toy with which to play. I didn’t realize what kind of fun-spiral I could fall into. LeoCAD is an incredibly useful tool to teach CAD and many CAD concepts.
If you have a passing interest in Legos or CAD or both, this is worth checking out. Opening up Lego models from your childhood, spinning them around and modifying them like you would have done so many years ago is a great way to spend a weekend where the weather isn’t cooperative. Being able to create, modify and document your ideas is fantastic but the best part about LeoCAD is, at no time will playing with these Legos pose any risk to your feet.
During one of my web-searching, rabbit-hole voyages, I stumbled upon this Franz application. I was immediately thrilled with the idea as I have a number of chat services I use on regular basis. It has almost grown out of control and my current solution for these services was less than stellar. I have a mixture of Electron applications and tabs open in a browser to keep connected to all these different circles of people and organizations. I consider it a rather untidy and disjointed solution of maintaining Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Telegram, Discord and a few others. Most recently I added Slack to the mix and I thought for a moment, this is far from the good ‘ol days when I just used IRC and AOL instant messenger to talk to everybody.
Bottom Line Up Front, I like Franz. I do indeed recommend it as a solution to try to consolidate your chat services and remove the burden from the Web Browser or the spattering of Applications.
My first course of action is to see if the application is in the openSUSE Software center. I have more trust in ensuring an application is properly updated from that source than others (with some exceptions). Franz is available from here:
A word of caution, it may be up to you to ensure that you have the latest version of this application on your system. I only have one AppImage I use that does warn me of updates. The others do not.
I was just a bit surprised that the usage of this application requires a login. I completely understand having this for the paid, supported version but I am not sure exactly as to why the free version would require it.
I am undecided as to whether or not I am content with this requirement. I do understand the reasoning from the perspective of the developers to know how many users there are but I just don’t know about it.
This is certainly not a deal breaker by any means, I just have to realize that there is some control that I am resigning by using it. Ultimately, no more than most of the other chat services running in a Browser Tab but I don’t have to log into the Falkon Browser to use GroupMe or Facebook Messenger… just a thought.
I was interested in comparing using this new Franz application alone to using Falkon with just the tabs for each client combined with the native applications. It seemed like a reasonably fair method of comparison. First, I tested the existing method:
The existing method of Telegram, Discord and Skype using the stand-alone installed applications, one session of Chrome for the Hangouts, plus Falkon with only tabs of the rest of my messaging services used 2.6 GiB of RAM. Truly a shocking amount of resources for sending text messages and pictures.
The Franz alone method, running the same 11 Chat services for approximately the same amount of time consumed 1.8 GiB of RAM. This still seems just a bit on the high side just for sending messages but clearly better. When using the AppImage, I didn’t notice any signification memory usage differences.
Whether using the existing method or the Franz method, I did notice some memory usage creep from the beginning of each timed test to the end of the test. I didn’t let it play out for days to see if it became increasingly worse. I also didn’t have the tools or patience to determine the cause in either case but it seems reasonable to assume that there would be messages and pictures cached over time.
Application Usage Experience
I tested both the distribution managed RPM and AppImage versions of Franz and it is good to know that they both used the same configuration files which I have discovered to be here:
I was very appreciative of the System notifications for new messages on the different services. There were some that didn’t have any new messages over the testing period. When running these services in Firefox or Chrome, you can turn on notifications. In Falkon, my currently preferred browser, you cannot and do not get notifications. Clicking on a notification will bring up the Franz window and switch to the conversation to which that dialog belongs. This is very handy as that is not always the case when using the Hangouts or Telegram applications.
When using this, I have noticed that some of the services can fail and require being reloaded. This has happened when I have Suspended to RAM and moved locations. The solutions is easy. Either reload the failed service or all of Franz.
What I don’t like
The application is themed with light colors. I frankly do not like anything with a light background. I make exceptions, such as working on a document that I know will be printed onto white paper. White paper makes sense to work with as that will be my intended final product but anything outside of that needs to be light text on a black background.
This program is essentially just wrapping the web content in a more native-feeling application. From what I can tell, it doesn’t actually use the APIs of any of the services for its own built in application. I can’t really put a finger on why I don’t like this as much as a native application so I will call this a nitpick dislike and perhaps rather unfair.
What I Wish It Would Do
Some sort of style sheet overrides to allow for a dark theme applied to everything. I use an addon with Firefox to force this and for the right sites it works very well. I do wish Franz somehow wrapped in the Linux client of Telegram. I do not like the web UI as compared to the native application almost enough that I might just not use the Telegram service in Franz.
I am now considering removing the native applications from my system but at the same time, I do like the idea of having them because I find the idea of native stand-alone applications pretty great as well. It brings a smile to my face to see that Telegram, Discord and even Skype have a specific Linux installation and I want to support that, even if they might just be Electron apps wrapping the Web content.
The amount of memory that browsers and even this Franz solution takes does seem a bit absurd. Under the best case, running these chat services still take up too much memory, in my opinion. Using Franz for all 11 services used 1.8 GiB which breaks down to 163 MiB per chat service. I can’t help but wonder, what is really going there?
Although this issue doesn’t apply to me, there is one immediate drawback to Franz, It appears as though you have to use the paid version in order to use self-hosted services like Mattermost. If you don’t mind paying, not a problem, but if that is not in the budget. You may have to find another solution.
Overall. I am quite pleased with Franz and I will continue to use it until I find something to challenge its “seat” as my multi-chat client of choice. I do like freeing up my Browser from chat services and the notification feature works just as you would expect. This is a great piece of software and worth checking out.
After working with Plasma Mobile on the Nexus 5X and although it is not quite ready for prime time, it is nearly there. It is so close, I can taste it and I am very ready to see Plasma Mobile as all I see on my mobile. I am also continually seeing interest on the aging HP Touchpad. It too is a fine piece of hardware that is still very capable and now, I can’t help but wonder how much work it would be to port Plasma Mobile to that hardware. I see that there has already been work with the Halium Project for the HP Touchpad. Unfortunately, my understanding at what goes on at the base hardware level is EXTREMELY limited.
Plasma Mobile Experience
The look and feel of Plasma Mobile is pretty great. Like all things Plasma, it is highly customizable. What that means to me, I can make my Mobile experience exactly the way I want, not something dictated by a corporation as to how they intend for me to use my technology.
So then I thought, I know Plasma Mobile is still in early stages, many things are still being taken from Plasma Desktop but that really should only require some adjustments. Over time, Plasma Mobile, much like the Desktop Counterpart could very well end up being the nicest, cleanest and yet most customiziable interface ever.
The HP Touchpad
The Touchpad, by today’s standards is not spectacular, but it isn’t terrible either. Its CPU is a dual core Scorpion clocked at 1200 MHz. It has 1 GiB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GiB of storage. It is certainly adequate for many tasks. I can’t help but think how fantastic this Touchpad would be with proper Linux, access to the breadth of open source software.
The good news is, the possibility of having a working Plasma Mobile interface on the HP Touchpad may be closer to reality than not. According to the Halium Project on GitHub, three have already been tests completed successfully. This is, unfortunately far outside my skill sets so there isn’t much I can offer here but I am watching the project with great interest.
How Useful Could It Be?
I know multimedia is the thing… streaming Netflix, watching YouTube and GPU intensive games is the common usage for tablets but that is not what I am interested in doing with it. There are far more interesting and productive activities. Using the Touchpad as my window into my digital recipe collection, reference technical documents, access to Kontact, the KDE Personal Information Manager, or at least parts of it for time and task management.
HP Touchpad with Plasma Mobile and openSUSE
Then I did some more thinking. I have only begun dabbling in the fantastic Open Build Service, but what if that system could be used to build an openSUSE Tumbleweed distribution specific to the HP Touchpad, tested by the openSUSE openQA and released in a similar rolling snapshot to the regular openSUSE Tumbleweed. Even with a fraction of the stability, reliability of upgrades and the breadth of software, this would be a fantastic improvement as compared to what is available today. It would be a gigantic library of goodness with many the most useful tools readily available.
Even though the HP Touchpad is far past its end of life, I continue to use it on a daily basis. I am very interested in seeing the HP Touchpad get a more genuine Linux upgrade and would like to toy with it now but I have to personally determine, do I want to take my HP Touchpad out of service? Would I even have the time test and experiment on it or do I continue to use it as it is? It is very usable today and works mostly well but a project like this might give it enough life for perhaps several more years and be more useful than it is now. For now, I will keep tabs on it but maybe in the very near future I will be able tip my toes in this arena.
A web browser is a tool that is pretty much indispensable for day to day work and annoyingly, over the last few years they have become more and more memory hungry. My browser habits are as such that I am mostly using the web browser for research, gathering information and expanding my knowledge so very often, w3m is good enough for me most of the time but some sites just don’t read as well. My solution that has been working out for a few months now is the Falkon Web Browser, formerly known as QupZilla, it is a low memory and resource browser that is peppy and renders pages as expected. It uses the QtWebEngine which is based on Chromium but with any binary files and any auxiliary services that talk to Google platforms stripped out.
For the most part, I could exclusively use this browser but there are just a few things keeping Firefox open as my secondary browser.
Falkon, like anything else, is easy to install from the openSUSE repositories. I checked this time to be sure and it is available for both Leap and Tumbleweed… sure enough, it is in the official release repositories of both.
For the one-click method of install visit the openSUSE Software Site or alternatively, you can do it the fun and exciting terminal method
sudo zypper install falkon
If by some chance you don’t run openSUSE, check with your distribution’s software center or download it direct from Falkon here. They offer Windows binaries and an AppImage.
What It Does Well
If you read nothing else, read this: The biggest and most important thing this browser does is general web browsing, many, many tabs with almost no appreciable hit to memory. Even after having multiple tabs open for days, the memory doesn’t creep either. Somehow, Falkon is managing each tab as such that it doesn’t go all crazy over time. Sure, if you are running a big, beefy rig with 32 GiB of RAM, this isn’t an issue but running lowered powered hardware, this is an issue.
Falkon is very fast and renders pages without any noticeable artifacts. Much less an issue with today’s browsers but some time ago, this has been an issue with lesser known browsers. Also, when using Falkon to post comments or create blathering pages (like this one), it doesn’t bog down over time.
Falkon comes with a built in ad blocker that can be turned off for sites as you wish with a click of the mouse. I leave the ad blocker on but turn it off for sites I use that depend on advertising dollars. I would consider this the best ad blocker but it filters out much of the cruft.
Falkon looks great with a KDE Dark Theme. It fits in well with my desktop theme and has a pleasantly minimal look about it with few buttons and just feels clean. Visually, this is exactly how I want my desktop and browser to be which is fantastic. There are some other options in the preferences if you want to make it look less good, if that is what you are most accustomed.
Browser history and bookmark manager are also what you would expect from any modern browser. I particularly like the interface but it is nothing that Chrome or Firefox are lacking.
What It Doesn’t Do Well
It doesn’t do Flash but that isn’t such a big deal today. That means I use Firefox or Chrome to watch Homestarrunner.com videos. Most of the flash media on the web has seemingly disappeared. I’m still a fan of Flash… I might be the only one…
I can’t watch Netflix with Falkon as it doesn’t have the DRM Extension capability and there isn’t an extension that you can load to add the functionality. This is another “entertainment” activity, of which I am not generally using Falkon for anyway.
KDE Plasma Browser Integration is not an option but maybe will be in the future. I did some searching and couldn’t find any discussion on it but admittedly, I didn’t search very hard. This would be a nice function to add and would basically make Falkon almost “feature complete”.
I can’t do one-click install from the openSUSE Software Site and Telegram invite links will also not work in Falkon. These are actually the largest of issues for me with Falkon. My work around is just to use Firefox but it would be pretty great if Falkon could do this.
There are a limited number of extensions but truthfully, that is not a big deal for me as I generally don’t run any extensions… unless it’s Chrome but that is another story.
Why I Use It
I have found on numerous occasions that Chrome and to a lesser extent Firefox will start to memory creep over time. Using Chrome for a full workday with 6 or 8 tabs open will take up about 6 GiB of RAM and that is only having Gmail, Drive, Calendar and a few Google Documents open. On my machine with 16 GiB of RAM, this isn’t so much of an issue but on a 4 GiB laptop that I often use as a kind of side kick machine, this is an issue. This is so bothersome on the 4 GiB machine, I don’t bother with Chrome at all. It isn’t even usable but Falkon will do all the GSuite activities with a fraction of the memory resources without the memory creep. I can run that all day and not have a second thought about system resources.
Falkon doesn’t have any of the Google binary blobs doing unknown things. My primary reason for this is, I want my computer working for me, not working for someone else. I don’t need my computer cycles and electricity working to service a company unnecessarily and without my consent and I have no proof of this but I am starting to think that all this memory creep that happens in Chrome is largely due to those binary blobs.
Ultimately, I miss the days of using Konqueror as my daily web browser and this feels like a return to those good ol days some 12 years ago. Clean, simple and basic web browser that I feel like I can trust.
What I Wish It Would Do
Flash is on it’s way out so I don’t see the development team adding support for that at anytime. The next thing on my list would be the KDE Plasma Browser Integration. I do listen to some podcasts from some sites and I am able to start and stop the music using my Bluetooth headphones when using Firefox but not so with Falkon. That lack of functionality is unfortunate.
Falkon isn’t able to open the appropriate software management program when using the One-Click install from the openSUSE Software site nor is it able to access web link invites for Telegram. If there was some way to shim it with an easy, user-level script, that would be great. I haven’t yet discovered (though, I haven’t looked) a way to do that but I am hoping it will in time.
Falkon is not what I would consider a “feature incomplete” browser but it is almost exactly as I want it. Simple and feature reduced. I don’t want my browser doing very much. I want its tasks to be limited to basic browsing and not gobble up memory resources.
This is a fantastic productivity browser. I use it for keeping tabs on different sites and bits of information handy as I go down my rabbit holes. Having multiple tabs open is also not an issue as Falkon does a good job of memory management and doesn’t start memory creeping when left open. It is rock solid and has yet to crash on me.
I highly recommend giving Falkon a spin. See if it will work for you. You just might be glad you did.