Right-to-Left Script in LibreOffice using KDE Plasma on openSUSE

Text Icon

In case you have to mix right-to-left text into your documents and you aren’t sure how to make it happen, it is super easy to do with LibreOffice when running in concert with openSUSE with KDE Plasma as the desktop environment. You’ll have to check with your Desktop Environment for how to add additional keymaps and how to switch between them.

Instructions in Short Form

On KDE Plasma, open SystemSettings, select the Input Devices Module. Under the Keyboard sub-module, select the Layouts tab. In the Layouts Indicator, activate Show layout indicator and take note of Shortcut(s) for Switching Layout. In my case, it is Ctrl+Alt+K

Toggle the Configure layouts, then +Add the desired layout. From there, open the text editor of your choice, like LibreOffice and start typing away. Switch the layouts through either the indicator or the keyboard shortcut. You’ll be happily amazed by how well it works across multiple applications.

A Little Video to Demonstrate

Mostly as an excuse to play with Kdenlive and SimpleScreenRecorder, I made a video of how to do switch your layouts on the fly and write. Unfortunately, I don’t have the physical character layout on my keyboard and I was too lazy to figure it out and demonstrate a proper Arabic sentence.

Final Thoughts

One of the features I have enjoyed for many years working with the Linux and KDE [Plasma] has been the absolutely fantastic flexibility to allow me to get whatever work done that is required of me. I have had to use the switching keymaps on numerous occasions and the dynamic switching to those keymaps is absolutely a must. It’s just another way that Linux has made my life easier.

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux

KDE Plasma

LibreOffice

Rambox | Chat Message Unification Application for openSUSE

Rambox on openSUSE

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

Installation

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

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

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

How It Runs

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

Rambox-01-Start Screen

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

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

Rambox-02-Settings.png

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

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

Rambox-03-Add service

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

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

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

What I Like

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

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

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Further Reading

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

Get Rambox Pro

Rambox App on Github

Coherent Color Scheme Creation for Qt and GTK on openSUSE

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

Why take the time?

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

The Solution

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

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

KDE Plasma SystemSettings

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

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

KDE Plsama Color Scheme Customize.png

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

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

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

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

sudo zypper in gdk-pixbuf-devel

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

Oomox Color Theme Customizer

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

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

Gnome-Recipes openSUSE Breeze Dark

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux | CubicleNate notes

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

Network Diagramming with LibreOffice Draw on openSUSE

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

The Problem

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

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

The Solution

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

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

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

VRT Network Equipment OXT.png

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

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

LMCC Network Diagram-01.png

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

What I like

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

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

What I Don’t Like

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

How It’s Working Out

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

Final Thoughts

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

Further Reading

openSUSE.org Site

LibreOffice Site

LibreOffice Network Gallary Images from VRT.com

Minitube a YouTube Application on openSUSE

Minitube on openSUSE-sm.png

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”.

Installation

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:

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

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.

Features

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.

Minitube-01-Search

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.

Minitube-02-Browse

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.”

Minitube-03-Subscriptions

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.

Minitube-05-Playing Subscriptions

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.

Minitube-04-BDLL

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Further Reading

Minitube Home

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

YouTube Classic Extension on Firefox

Syncthing on openSUSE

ltunify | Tool for working with Logitech Unifying receivers and devices on openSUSE

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.

Microsoft Wireless Keyboard Touchpad.jpg

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.

Logitech Unifying Receiver and M185 Mouse.jpg

Next, I had to pair this newly acquired mouse with my Unifying Receiver. To do so, I needed to install the Ltunify application.

Installation

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:

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

Or if you prefer the terminal, which I happen to, you will have to add a repository then install the application.

Repository for Tumbleweed

sudo zypper ar http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/hardware/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/ Hardware

Repository for Leap 15.1

sudo zypper ar http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/hardware/openSUSE_Leap_15.1/ Hardware

Repository for Leap 15.0

sudo zypper ar http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/hardware/openSUSE_Leap_15.0/ Hardware

Refresh all repositories

sudo zypper ref

Install the application

sudo zypper in ltunify

Application Usage

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 <lekensteyn@gmail.com>

Generic options:
-d, –device path Bypass detection, specify custom hidraw device.
-D Print debugging information
-h, –help Show this help message

Commands:
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

ltunify pair

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

ltunify list

To which I was happy to see that the new mouse was now paired along with the broken mouse I once had.

Devices count: 2
Connected devices:
idx=1   Mouse   Performance MX
idx=2   Mouse   M185

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Further Reading

ltunify from software.opensuse.org

Logitech Unifying Receiver

Kitchen Command Center Computer: Dell Inspiron 20 3048 All-In-One Desktop

ltunify on GitHub

Konqueror is Still Awesome

Konqueror logo.png

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 Welcome Screen

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.

Konqueror File Manager.png

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.

Dolphin Home Folder.png

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.

Konqueror File Size View

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.

Konqueror Panes Terminal Emulator

But wait, there’s more!

Konqueror Panes Terminal Emulator 2.png

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.

Konqueror Web Browser

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Further Reading

Konqueror Home

Okular Document Viewer

Falkon Web Browser on openSUSE

USB or Removable Media Formatting in Linux

USB Drive-02.jpg

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:

dmesg

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
[109951.135052]  sdc:
[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:

df -h

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.

https://software.opensuse.org/package/quick-usb-formatter

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:

/usr/bin/quickusbformatter

USB Format-01

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.Gparted-01-sdc

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.

Gparted-05-SD Card.png

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.

Gparted-02-File System Support

Final Thoughts

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.

Further Reading

https://software.opensuse.org/package/quick-usb-formatter

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

CrossOver Linux Use and Review on openSUSE

CrossOver Logo

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.

Installation

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:

https://www.codeweavers.com/products/crossover-linux/download

I like to neatly tuck them into an rpms subfolder in my Downloads directory.

sudo zypper install ~/Downloads/rpms/crossover-18.0.0-1.rpm

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.

CrossOver Linux-01-Main Window.png

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.

CrossOver Linux-02-StarTrek_Starfleet_Academy

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.

Screenshot_20181109_081742

Games

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

StarTrek_Starfleet_Academy-01

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.

CrossOver Linux-03-Freespace2

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.

Overall Reliability

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

External References

CodeWeaver’s Blog Version 18 Release

CodeWeavers.com Compatibility Rosetta Stone 2

CrossOver Linux Download

GoG.com Freespace 2

GoG.com Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

LeoCAD | Free LEGO® CAD Software on openSUSE Linux

LeoCAD-00-Title.png

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:

https://www.leocad.org/download.html

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.

LeoCAD-01-Permissions.png

Um… Why?

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-02-Invader.png

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.

LeoCAD-03-Invader Cockpit Partial.png

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.

LeoCAD-04-Invader Cockpit.png

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”.

LeoCAD-05-Invader Ship.png

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.

LeoCAD-07-Parts List.png

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.

Lego Project

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.

LeoCAD-10-Blackktron AT-ST.png

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.

Blacktron AT-ST-01
Blacktron AT-ST

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.

LeoCAD-11-ColorsIt 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Further Reading

LeoCAD Site

LDraw.org, open standard for LEGO® CAD programs

LeoCAD on GitHub

BrickLink.com Lego® Marketplace

Brickset.com, Lego® Set Guide