KDE Connect CLI | A gift to Future Self

terminal-icon

KDE Connect is an application that I use on a daily basis between my mobile and my desktop or laptop Linux systems. Most of my systems are openSUSE machines running KDE Plasma and the mobile devices are running LineageOS (Android). Up until I decided to run a non-KDE Plasma desktop.

​I was given the distinct pleasure in getting to know the KDE Connect Command Line Interface application when pairing devices to a BunsenLabs and MX Linux installation. The main reason for this was to be able to share clipboards and use my HP TouchPad as an input device for the machine.

The commands are mostly easy to use. This is a guide for me, if it works for you, fantastic. If you have no interest in this, that is perfectly fine too.

Installation

Install using your favorite graphical package manager or in the terminal.

openSUSE

sudo zypper install kdeconnect-cli

Debian Based

sudo apt-get install kdeconnect-cli

Process to Pair Device

There are two ways you can go about doing this. From the terminal on the non-Plasma system to a system with either Android KDE Plasma or the reverse. I am going to demonstrate this the fun way, which is from the terminal to the GUI systems.

Assuming that you have configured your firewall to allow KDE Connect communication, in short 1714-1764 for UDP and TCP connections, check with your distribution for firewall instructions, or here for the KDE Community instructions. Optionally, here for the openSUSE Instructions.
In the terminal run this to find KDE Connect enabled devices:

kdeconnect-cli -l

That will give you output something like this:

– TouchPADD: device_ID (reachable)
– SkyHigh: device_ID (reachable)
– Icarus: device_ID (reachable)
– Nexus5X: device_ID (reachable)
4 devices found

Now that you have identified the devices you will need to pair the device

kdeconnect-cli -d device_ID --pair

On the device you are attempting to connect to, you will see the notification that the a device is attempting to connect
kde connect pair notification

Accept it and move on to the next device you that you wish to connect.

How I am using it

I am using my TouchPADD as another input device for the non-KDE Plasma system, I am also using it to share clipboard contents between machines as well, usually URLs.

Final Thoughts

There are many more function of KDE Connect you can do in the terminal. You can play around with KDE Connect in the terminal by running.

kdeconnect-cli --help

The only other command I have used is to ping another device

kdeconnect-cli -d device_ID --ping

Since I couldn’t find any resources that plainly explained how to use the terminal commands so it was fitting to jot it down. Hopefully you find this useful.

Further Reading

https://community.kde.org/KDEConnect

https://en.opensuse.org/SDB:KDE_Connect

KDE Connect – Mobile and Desktop Convergence

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

BunsenLabs Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

https://lineageos.org/

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openSUSE Linux on a Dell Inspiron 3646 | Low Budget Multimedia Configuration for a Small Church

Churches generally have no budget for technology and frankly, I don’t think that a church should really avoid spending on technology as much as possible. I’m sure this isn’t a view many people share but it is my view. I believe it using whatever is available whenever possible and only making upgrades or purchasing new hardware when it is absolutely necessary.

There are several pieces of equipment in varying states of age and functionality. I haven’t sorted out everything, yet, and it is also not completely on my shoulders, as another tech and audio enthusiast in the church, Phil, has taken care of the audio equipment. It is all a work in progress.

My focus, for now, is to restore multimedia capabilities of the computer, Dell Inspiron 3646 and even improve it somewhat. Upon my initial assessment, I knew what my first steps were.

The Problems

Dell Inspiron 3646-04-System.jpgThe machine originally came equipped with Windows 10 which would annoyingly upgrade at the the most inopportune time and using it on under powered hardware is often problematic. The few times I spent any amount of time on the machine, it didn’t perform very well but it was working and I wasn’t really interested in thrusting the greatness of Linux on those not ready for it.

At some point in time, the system fell into disarray and I was recently asked to see what I could do to make the computer functional. Phil had already made the sound system functional enough to be used so it was my turn to make the computer functional.

Like it or not, sometimes your volunteers have things come up and just don’t make it in one day leaving the available workers short handed. Back in my days of childhood, multimedia meant slide show or overhead projector, but it’s hard to convinced a 20 something pastor that the right investment with no budget is a slide projector…

The Limitations

A budget of zero, or rather, whatever I am willing to dig up to make improvements. Since I had already been informed there is no budget for any upgrades or equipment, I was only going to do what was necessary to make the computer system as functional as possible. I already knew, with the power and capabilities of Linux, I could make substantial improvements very easily.

Here is the hardware I have to work with:

  • Dell Inspiron 3646
  • Intel Celeron CPU J1800 @ 2.41 GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • Single Head Video Output
  • A bunch of other audio equipment with which to integrate

Preparing the Installation

I prepared a USB drive with openSUSE Leap 15.0. I downloaded the ISO from here and put the image on an ISO using SUSE Studio Imagewriter. Once the image completed writing, I inserted the drive into the Dell Inspiron 3646 and powered it up.

In order to access the BIOS, when the machine is going through the POST process and you are greeted with the Dell Logo, press F2. Since openSUSE is capable of handling secure boot without issue, I didn’t have to change anything. I just wanted to be sure that the BIOS was picking up the USB drive and I wanted to see the main screen so I could record the main bits of the hardware.

Dell Inspiron 3546-01-BIOS

I set this machine up with KDE Plasma because, is there really another choice? I mean, yes, of course there is but I didn’t want to have to fiddle with anything to get the features I wanted so my only real choice was of course going to be Plasma.

Since I like what I like when setting up the partitions, I did it manually to my preferences. I prefer the swap partition over the swap file and I am using BTRFS on root with snapshots enabled. BTRFS has been a rock solid performer in this capacity. I use XFS on /home. I was going to use Ext4 but the only reason for that would be for Dropbox compatibility and frankly, I just stopped using Dropbox due to their technical shortcomings.

Dell Inspiron 3546-02-partitions

After boot up, the system was all set. It required a few more software packages, firstly, the Plasma Browser Integration. In terminal:

sudo zypper install plasma-browser-integration

It actually may not be necessary to have to explicitly install this software package as the desktop it is supposed to automatically ask you if you want it installed.

Next I installed the Plasma Add-on for Firefox.

Plasma Integration Add-on

Finally, I installed all the Codecs and VLC into this machine using my multimedia codecs and VLC player instructions for Leap 15.0.

The last bit to configure was KDE Connect. Initially just with my Android phone, mostly for demonstration purposes. I also was presented with an opportunity to do a “live test” as well.

After some tests, it all worked just as expected and the machine performed much better than it did previously… exceptionally better… Not to belabor the point but before the machine was rather sluggish and I didn’t expect anything fantastic but this machine really does perform fantastically well.

Changes and Upgrades

This machine has only one VGA output and it was previously set up with a splitter cable that when plugged into both the monitor and the projector, the output would shut down. I don’t know if that is how it has been used or not but I determined it needed a proper splitter. I picked one up, hooked it up and I now have a unified output between the screen and projector.

VGA Splitter.jpg

I actually thought that this machine was going to require more memory to function well enough but it isn’t necessary at this time. This machine isn’t being taxed at all. KDE Plasma, even with all the fun I was running did not tax the machine at all.

How it’s working now

I am sure that there are a few more “bugs” to be worked out, mostly with the human to machine interaction. Mostly, I need to properly document the process of turning it on and off the system properly as well as how to pair Android phones or tablets to allow other workers to use the KDE Connect features. I have helped two people completely unfamiliar with KDE Connect, use it and it be impressed with it.

The feature that stood out the most was the ability to share a YouTube URL from the phone directly to the computer to have it open immediately and play. A feature I have enjoy for quite some time and have become quite accustomed was new and exciting to the unfamiliar. The multimedia controls, also quite handy and when I demonstrated the ability to use the phone to switch slides on LibreOffice Impress using only the volume keys, all well received

I still need to create some documentation to allow anyone to be able to use it without my direct intervention. For now, I am going to make myself available to help people become accustomed to this “new” system.

Future upgrades

Since some of the volunteers do Add a dedicated “burner” tablet so that volunteers don’t need to install KDE Connect on their phones. After I was reviewing some of my photographs, I noticed that there is an HDMI port on this computer. I am going to see about adapting that port to VGA and for multi head capability. The next upgrade would be a memory upgrade. 4 GiB of RAM, although good enough for now it would be nice to to have just a bit more. I haven’t opened the machine up but I am guessing there are at least 2 slots and one of them filled and the other is open. Of course, I need to check for certain before I start buying hardware.

Not directly related to this computer, there is a need to make further refinements to the attached sound system and determine what the issue is with the lighting control system.

Final Thoughts

The Dell Inspiron 3646 is a fine machine that, in my estimation has many years of service ahead of it. I have to say, once again, how amazing it is how much more efficient Linux is than Windows on less capable machine. The  computer’s functionality would greatly improved with a second display.

The sound system to which it is connected and the lighting controller are going to need a bit more attention. I am not sure exactly where to start or if I should even be the one to touch it. There is an annoying 60 Hz hum that needs to be eliminated. Then there is the matter with the lighting controller. Currently, it does nothing, no lights work. I am not sure yet where the breakdown is but I will figure it out eventually.

This is only the first in many steps to slowly making the information system situation in the church better. This is not the “main effort” in the church which is perfect for me. No budget, no attention and no one else that interest in finding solutions.

External Links

openSUSE Leap Download

http://philoangelo.blogspot.com/

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power-on_self-test

Multimedia Codecs Terminal

 

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

NeptuneOS | Review from an openSUSE User

I am not a “distro hopper” but it is good to experience some of the other Linux distributions out there. It gives you a good understanding of what you like and what you like less and keeps things colorful. This time it is NeptuneOS, a Debian based distro. Most of my Debian experience as of late has been with the Ubuntu and its variants. As far as I am concerned. Linux really is Linux and they are all, for the most part, good.

Installation

I am doing all my evaluations in a Virtual Machine. I am using my current favorite, for such things, VirtualBox. When I downloaded the ISO, I took quick attention to the system requirements for how very specific they are. I wanted to try them at their minimum.

1 Ghz Intel/AMD 64Bit CPU, 1.6 GB RAM, 8 GB HDD

I didn’t scale the CPU but I did set the RAM to down to 1.8 GB because I do have a machine like that and the HDD just a bit bigger to be realistic to what I would get form an older netbook or current, cheap, laptop in a dual boot scenario.

For starters, I must say, I am a bit confused as to why there isn’t a direct install option, that you have to use it as a “Live CD” to start. I am not sure why Live CDs are really a thing anymore. If I am going to try a Linux Distribution, you can’t get the full benefit out of it in a kind of Read Only environment, would rather just install directly.

When the Live CD version boots up, you are greeted with a fine looking desktop. Very pleasant and simple. A great way to start.

I am not going to be too critical of the choice for a Live CD being the only option but it does seem like a bit of a waste of time to have to go that route, just to install.

Installation

The installation process was straight forward. With only six steps required to get the install going, seven if you count the confirmation to perform the install and eight if you count rebooting as part of the install.

The first two steps are pretty easy… what language do you speak and about where do you live. If only most questions life were this simple…

The keyboard selector is the best I have ever seen. Although I do not have a Dvorak keyboard, nor have I ever seen one in the wild, it was great to not only see this as an option but to see that the keyboard layout is what you are expecting. Very nice!

This really inspires me to want to get a Dvorak keyboard. The practicality is still in question as I don’t need one and it would likely just be a novelty.

I left the default partitioning scheme in place. This is not going to be a regular machine else I would have set a separate /home partition. I like for those home things to be separate should I have a desire to “nuke and pave” my system (clean install). The user set up was also nice and clean although, I like to be able to specify my own user ID.

My only criticism to the installation process is that it is just a series of commercials, I suppose that is fine but I like to watch and see what is actually happening, such as packages being installed and the like.

Step Eight, reboot. Interesting that it would be a check mark option.

First Run

Upon reboot, I happen to like this Grub screen; Big Chunky Red Bar to boot Neptune OS. It boot rather quickly, especially since this is happening in a VM. Time to boot is not something I would score real heavy on unless it is painfully slow like pre-systemD era Linux.

There is something about a fresh smelling, clean, un-customized desktop in KDE Plasma. It is like a sand box waiting for your own personal creation to take form.

I am going to give NeptuneOS points on their default menu selection. It is not my personal preference but for a new user, this is a great, comfortable menu that is clear and gives you some great starting points. Well done!

Personally, I prefer the “Application Menu” Alternative but that is the simply awesome thing about KDE Plasma, if you don’t like the default or have a different preference, there is an option for you.

For a light theme, I think the default desktop theme is pretty great. It looks clean and simple and I do like the shadowing effect. The NeptuneOS dark theme is also very nicely done. So theming wise, this is a great distro out of the box. No reason to hunt for a new theme.

Discover is basically what you would expect on a KDE Plasma Desktop. I must say, I am not used to the light theme for this application and I maybe like it better than the dark theme.

I am not really sure why you have to enter your password for updates but again, not a big deal. Maybe you don’t want an unprivileged user to be able to perform updates.

Plasma Vault

I may have been living under a rock but I haven’t seen this application before. I haven’t taken the time to research it at all but wanted to see how intuitive it would be to use knowing nothing about it.

The one thing I don’t really understand is why they would include Encfs as an encryption system by default if it is knowingly less secure and easily compromised. I can see having it available for legacy reason but installed by default seems just a bit silly.

After choosing your encryption system, you are prompted for your password to which it tells you how “secure” it is, a location for the vault, the mount point, and finally the type of cipher you wish to use. I chose the “default”.

Another nice feature was the option to limit the vault to specific activities. Plasma will close that vault if you goo to an activity to which it is not permitted.

To try it out, I created a text file in the vault to experience the process of interacting with mounting and un-mounting vaults.

When mounted, the vault acts like any other directory on the file tree. When you un-mount the vault, the contents of that vault disappears in much the same way you would expect from un-mounting a drive.

When mounting the drive, you are prompted for your password and the vault auto-magically becomes available once again.

On a side note I liked this so much, and to shoe-horn in my preferred distribution in this review, I installed it in openSUSE to play with it some more.

sudo zypper install plasma-vault plasma-vault-backend-cryfs plasma-vault-lang

What I Like

The general feel of NeptuneOS is great, from the Installation process to the menu selection and default theme selections, it was all quite fantastic. If I had to use NeptuneOS as a daily driver, I would be quite comfortable here. NeptuneOS is based on Debian 9.0 (Stretch), I could probably add a PPA or download the tarball or some other deb package of Telegram to get going with it. The same goes for Discord or any other application I regularly use. I am already familiar with the Debian way of doing things so living in the terminal here is not much different elsewhere.

NeptuneOS-31-Smart Card InstallationI used my directions for installing the Smart Card system for Ubuntu and derivatives and it all worked just as expected. I was a bit surprised that they worked. I did have to set it up for Chromium, which worked just fine. This tells me I need to make some adjustments to my page to spell out what I have tested. Something to think about…

The system requirements specified on the Download page are accurate. They are not just theoretical. For everything I tested, it all just worked.

What I Don’t Like

Telegram, Discord and Firefox was not available in the repository. Iceweasel was available, which I know is a re-branded Firefox but to a new-ish user that doesn’t know what Iceweasel is, that could be confusing. I am sure I could find Telegram and Discord but I wasn’t particularly inspired to do so.

I haven’t tested memory usage between Chromium and Firefox but based on my Chrome experiences, it seems like Firefox might be a better solution to meet that low system memory requirement or better yet, have Falkon available even though that is not a full featured browser.

It doesn’t have Zypper, the openSUSE package manager… but I wasn’t expecting that. I just happen to prefer it over Apt*.

Final Thoughts

NeptuneOS is a very clean KDE Plasma distribution. It looks good out of the box and since it is based on Debian 9.0, it has potential to have quite the extensive software library available to it. The experience is clean and well thought out with sensible defaults. Not all the defaults are my preference but that can be fairly easily adjusted to suit my needs. There are some applications that are not available by default which can be a bit frustrating but there are not many distributions that have everything you want upon install.

Over all, NeptuneOS is a winner, from an openSUSE user’s perspective.

Further Reading

NeptuneOS Home Page

VirtualBox.org

DoD CAC Reader | Ubuntu, Derivatives and Linux Mint

3 Ways to Install Telegram Messenger on Debian 9 Stretch

Other Distributions

 

 

 

 

HP Touchpad with Plasma Mobile and openSUSE — Fall Time Blathering

HP_TouchPad_Title-2.png

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

Nexus 5X-PlasmaMoble-01The 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

HP_TouchPad-12-LineageOS.pngThe 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.

HaliumThe 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?

kontactI 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

opensuse-logo2Then 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.

Now What?

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.

Further Reading

Halium for HP Touchpad Project on GitHub

HP Touchpad Specifications

Open Build Service

Halium Project

open QA

openSUSE Tumbleweed Home

HP Touchpad in 2018

Plasma Mobile installation on Nexus 5X

KDE Kontact Personal Information Manager

Falkon Web Browser on openSUSE

Falkon on openSUSE.pngA 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.

Installation

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 Browser-01-Start Page

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 Browser-04-openSUSE

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 Browser-02-Preferences 11.png

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.

Falkon Browser-02-Preferences 2.png

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.

Falkon Browser-06-Library

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 Browser-07-Gsuite.png

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.

Another lacking point is having Smart Card Security Device integration. Just as I can set up Firefox and Chrome / Chromium with the Smart Card system, it would be nice to do so in Falkon.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

References

Download Falkon Browser

Falkon Browser Project Page on GitHub

Plasma Browser Integration

W3M Browser

More about the QtWebEngine

Falkon from openSUSE Repositories

Smart Card Security Device Integration Instructions

Plasma Mobile installation on Nexus 5X

PlasmaMobile-00

I have been watching Plasma Mobile for a little while and have tested it in a virtual machine but haven’t made it a priority to get some real hardware to test it on until now. I recently broke my Samsung Galaxy 5S… again… but in many ways it was falling apart. I could not unlock the bootloader and every consecutive update from Samsung made the phone less usable. It would get hot and chew through the battery quickly but be incredibly slow. Looking at the battery usage it was always the Android System that was on top of the list. The last time it was used was when navigating to a destination, the phone became unresponsive, the screen went black and was incredibly hot.

Recently, it was announced that KDE Connect is available for Plasma Mobile which was the tipping point for me to say, it is time to test Plasma Mobile on something other than a virtual machine. So, I purchased Nexus 5X on ebay for $80, I figured, why not.

Nexus 5X-Android

Using this guide, Unlock for Beginners, as my base, I put this together as a distilled version of the guide that can be used on openSUSE but probably any other distribution of Linux as well.

Going through this, it took me a bit to really understand and take a course of action so to make this easier for someone of similar goals. I am running this on openSUSE Tumbleweed but the instructions for Leap should be the same. It really was a rather painless process so this doesn’t write-up doesn’t have much for trouble shooting.

Download the Tools

After some extensive reading and poking around, I chose the minimal method to perform this task. Instead of the full Android SDK, just the ADB Tools.

First step was to download the ADB/Fastboot (platform-tools)

I put it in my Projects folder.

~/Projects/adb/

In that folder, extracted the downloaded zip file, which is easy to do with KDE Plasma’s file manager, Dolphin. If you would like to do it in the terminal (your version may vary):

unzip platform-tools_r28.0.1-linux.zip -d platform-tools

Next, navigate to the folder, platform-tools and executed:

./adb version

which gave the output

Android Debug Bridge version 1.0.40
Version 4986621
Installed as /home/cubiclenate/Projects/adb/platform-tools/adb

Activate Developer Mode on the Nexus 5X

Navigate to: Settings > System > About phone

Scroll to the bottom of the list and tap Build Number 7 times. It will give you a countdown of how many more times you need to tap it after a few taps

Enable adb/USB Debugging

Navigate to: Settings > System > Developer options

There should be three toggles that are on:

A toggle at the top of the screen that should be On

Toggle OEM unlocking to On

Nexus 5X-Developer Options

Scroll down to the Debugging section and ensure that USB debugging is toggled On.

Prepare Desktop Linux

On my openSUSE machine, check to see if you have a plugdev group.

cut -d: -f1 /etc/group | sort | grep plugdev

If you don’t see plugdev returned, add it.

sudo groupadd plugdev

Then add your username to the plugdev group

sudo usermod -aG plugdev $LOGNAME

Logout and log back in for the group changes to take affect

Flash the Phone

Send the command to reboot into the Fastboot Mode

./adb reboot bootloader

The phone will reboot into this screen:

Nexus 5X-Fastboot

Note the PRODUCT NAME is bullhead. More on that later.

Just to verify, I checked that I could do the fastboot thing

./fastboot devices

And it gave me the output

00493e6b7693cba7        fastboot

I have no idea if I should leaving that number is a security risk or not but in this case, I’m not terrible worried.

Next step was to perform the oem unlock and make this phone do some complaining

./fastboot oem unlock

Nexus 5X-Unlock Bootloader

Select YES to Unlock the bootloader on the Mobile.

It should give you very encouraging output similar to this:

OKAY [301.881s]
Finished. Total time: 301.881s

Point of No Return

This process will erase the complete memory of the Nexus 5X. If that matters to you, be sure to back up everything that matters to you.

./fastboot format cache

Output should be similar to this:

Couldn’t parse erase-block-size ‘0x’.
Couldn’t parse logical-block-size ‘0x’.
Creating filesystem with parameters:
Size: 100663296
Block size: 4096
Blocks per group: 32768
Inodes per group: 6144
Inode size: 256
Journal blocks: 1024
Label:
Blocks: 24576
Block groups: 1
Reserved block group size: 7
Created filesystem with 11/6144 inodes and 1422/24576 blocks
target reported max download size of 536870912 bytes
erasing ‘cache’…
OKAY [  0.081s]
sending ‘cache’ (5688 KB)…
OKAY [  0.214s]
writing ‘cache’…
OKAY [  0.063s]
finished. total time: 0.357s

Then format the User Data:

./fastboot format userdata

With the output similar to this:

mke2fs 1.44.3 (10-July-2018)
Creating filesystem with 6661115 4k blocks and 1667904 inodes
Filesystem UUID: fea22557-b249-45e8-aca6-3230969b647b
Superblock backups stored on blocks:
32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208,
4096000

Allocating group tables: done
Writing inode tables: done
Creating journal (32768 blocks): done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done

Sending ‘userdata’ (4272 KB)                       OKAY [  0.181s]
Writing ‘userdata’                                 OKAY [  0.064s]
Finished. Total time: 0.388s

Now your phone is ready to flash Plasma Mobile. Though, it can also be noted that if you want to install custom firmware, that could be done as well.

Flashing Plasma Mobile

For this initial foray into Plasma Mobile, I used the the Neon Architecture reference.

In my ~/Projects folder I created a subdirectory PlasmaMobile

mkdir PlasmaMobile

Then pulled the latest Plasma Mobile flashing tool from GitHub

git clone https://github.com/plasma-phone-packaging/pm-flashtool.git

Changed directory to the location of flashtool

cd pm-flashtool

While still in fastboot mode, in terminal, Executed pm-flash

./pm-flash

This required a bit of interaction. It is important that you do not install the wrong image on the phone, something about bricking the device… which is bad.

+ CACHEDIR=cache
+ echo ‘Waiting for device to be in the fastboot mode’
Waiting for device to be in the fastboot mode
+ fastboot getvar product
product: bullhead
finished. total time: 0.020s
++ fastboot getvar product
++ head -1
++ awk ‘-F: ‘ ‘{print $2}’
+ DEVICE_NAME=bullhead
+ confirm ‘Connected device is bullhead, is that correct? [y/N]’
+ read -r -p ‘Connected device is bullhead, is that correct? [y/N] ‘ response
Connected device is bullhead, is that correct? [y/N]

I input y then hit enter as this is a bullhead device which is verified on the Fastboot Mode.

Unfortunately, due to my lack of prep work, I ended up on a Google Splash screen. Thanks to the fine folks on the Plasma Mobile Telegram group I was instructed to run the Flash-Vendor application to put the correct driver blob that would be compatible with Plasma Mobile

./flash-vendor

As soon as it completed, the phone rebooted and very shortly thereafter, I was greeted with a snazzy looking Plasma Mobile desktop. My initial impressions are very positive. I like the look and feel. The application menu is a different take from what you would see on Android but perfectly functional.

Nexus 5X-PlasmaMoble-01.jpg

The settings tool is similar to what you would see on the Plasma Desktop with real customization options. The kind of options that bring an ear-to-ear smile to your face.

Instead of Google Play, the application manager is Discover. This manages your updates as well of which I was told I had 309 updates waiting for me…. but I learned that updating in this manner is not yet supported, so don’t do that.

The authentication dialog feels like it isn’t really meant for mobile but I can overlook that small bit.

The network manager is by far the best network manager I have ever seen on a Mobile. I will admit, I am quite biased about this bit as I think the Plasma Desktop Network Manager is the best I’ve seen yet.

PlasmaMobile-Network Manager.jpg

I have only one issue, at the time of this writing, that prevents me from using this full time. I cannot actually place any calls with it. I am sure that the fix is forthcoming or maybe the problem is entirely with me. Once I have that hammered out, I will update this accordingly.

Final Thoughts

I am just now exploring the fine offerings of Plasma Mobile what it can do and what it can not do. The scope of this blathering is just the installation of Plasma Mobile on the Nexus 5X. I will continue to noodle around with it in hopes of making it my full-time daily driver mobile device in the very near future.

If you have a compatible device and some time to experiment, I recommend this as a fine afternoon activity. Perhaps you can even help out with the project and further the cause of having a truly free and open platform on your mobile.

References

Plasma-Mobile Project Site

XRA Developers Forum, Nexus-5X How To For Beginners Guide

platform-tools-latest-linux.zip

Neon Architecture Reference

Nexus 5X specifications on GSM Arena

River City Ransom: Underground on openSUSE Linux

RCRU-Title Screen

Sometime in the early 1990s, when it was still a thing to rent Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges from a video store, a friend and I came upon this game, “River City Ransom” which, to our understanding was supposed to be similar to “Double Dragon II”. It was but FAR better. “River City Ransom” is referred to as an “RPG Beat ’em up”. The roll playing bit of it is to power up your character with new abilities and upgrade stats by making purchases using the money you “earn” from the antagonists you beat up.

NES River City Ransom Cartridge.pngI started to reassemble all of my vintage tech about a year ago and in that time, I introduced my oldest boy to the colorful, fun-packed wonders of the Nintendo Entertainment System and one of those games was “River City Ransom.” We both had loads of fun. In my idol searching around for information about “River City Ransom”, I learned of the sequels that weren’t released in the US and more importantly, the Sequel to this game on Steam by a Canadian company, Conatus Creative.

Steam

I was very excited to see there was a Linux version of this game on Steam and when I saw this promotional video of it, I jumping out of my seat in excitement.

If you notice, toward the end, you will see that delightfully, semi-pompous-looking penguin toward the end that made my heart skip a little with excitement. Up to this moment, there haven’t been any new games ported to Linux of which I was interested.

Installing Steam

opensuse-logo2I now had a real, true and burning reason to install Steam on openSUSE. I had to play this game, so it was time to get on the “Steam Wagon”. Installing it is as straightforward as most anything else on openSUSE. Either do the direct one-click install here:

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

Or install it through the terminal as it is available in the main repository:

sudo zypper in steam

Steam Logo.pngI think Steam has a very decent interface. There is no need to dig into any help sections to understand how to use it. I did the search, found the game and went through the purchase process.

After purchasing and downloading the game, I realized, I didn’t know anything about Steam gaming in Linux, or any form of gaming that didn’t use the keyboard or analog joystick. I didn’t know anything about “modern” controllers to use in Linux and so forth. That forced me into a mode of doing some research quite rapidly on what controllers would be compatible with Linux and I was impatient, unwilling to order and wait for their arrival. I decided to reduce my options and I went to a local store and looked up each model of controller and the challenges of using them on Linux. There is SO MUCH conflicting information out there… I settled on two wireless, PS3 Rock Candy controllers at about $15 each.

After plugging the wireless dongles in, they weren’t immediately usable and I couldn’t figure out why. They were recognized properly as an input. I could check that all the buttons and joysticks were working from the KDE Plasma System Setting for input devices window. They didn’t have any odd behavior so I went digging through the forums and the settings in hopes of finding the problem.

What it boiled down to was ensuring there was generic controller support in the Steam Settings.

Steam > Settings > Controller

Steam Controller Settings

Select, GENERAL CONTROLLER SETTINGS

Steam General Controller Settings.png

Just make sure that Generic Gamepad Configuration Support is selected.

After that, everything should work tip-top.

Wii U Pro ControllerIf you look above, you will see that Wii U – Generic Gamepad is the detected controller. After trying a few controllers, I ended up liking the and preferring the Wii U Pro Controller for gaming. It it quite literally the best feeling gamepad controller I have used to date. My fingers comfortably wrap around the controller and it fills my hands quite nicely. Also note, there are several controllers I haven’t yet tried.

Playing on Linux

Had this game not been released for Linux, I probably would not have purchased it but for some fantastic reason the fine developers at Conatus Creative chose to release it on Linux and for that, I am quite grateful.

Some tips on playing this game on Linux. I use KDE Plasma Desktop and I have noticed one little, teeny, tiny issue. If you use Xrender as the Rendering backend, even if you disable it for gameplay, does cause some frame-rate issues.  If I use OpenGL for the rendering backend, I have a better, smoother experience. Your results may vary.

Controls

I blame the fact that my gaming has basically stagnated and I don’t do much of it that I became unfamiliar with control schemes and much of what I had to do was dig around and piece information together and just become familiar with these newer controllers.

This is a reference for me, mostly as I will likely forget again.

River City Ransom: Underground Default Control Scheme

I had some issues really understanding, while playing, what all these buttons did so I  laid it out visually like this.

River City Ransom Underground Controller_defined-01

I would have died a lot less in the beginning had I done this from day one. Once you get used to it, as it is far different to the original Nintendo’s “River City Ransom”, it can become quite natural, even for those raised in the 1980s and 1990s era of gaming.

Game Play

The premise is simple and could almost be ancient in the ideas of video gaming since, arguably, 1987 when “Double Dragon” was introduced in the arcades and the following year on the Nintendo Entertainment System. You walk around and beat up the bad guys, pick up weapons and use them. In case this style of game play is completely foreign to you, no need to fret, as “River City Ransom Underground” starts off with a kind of tutorial. The Game starts off near the end of the original “River City Ransom”, right before entering River City High School.

RCRU-01-Tutorial

Once you complete this portion where you become acquainted with the updated game play, you will jump ahead some years with the option to select your character of choice. Each character has a different fighting style.

RCRU-03-Character Selection.jpg

What is also quite fun is that you can have four players at once. Admittedly, it can get a little crazy with so many characters on the screen at once, it is also incredibly fun and makes the cartoony violence very, very funny.

Throughout the game, you meet new friends of which you can change to those new found characters. It adds to the many layers of fun in this game.

RCRU-04-More friends

You also meet up with Alex and Ryan, the characters from the original game but 20 years or so older.

RCRU-05-Alex and Ryan.jpg

Game Progression

As you progress through the game, your character becomes more capable through eXperience Points (XP), gained from beating up the enemy and powering up by using the money you earn from your fallen opponents for purchases.

RCRU-06-Shopping

The map also helps with navigating and guiding you to your next “mission” in the game. Outside of a few confusing points in the game, perhaps intentionally, the map is a welcome addition over its progenitor.

RCRU-08-Map

This is much like an open world type game where you are free to explore as you wish. You can go to an objective to progress the story or work on building up your characters capabilities through XP, purchases from vendors in the malls and gaining new fighting abilities by visiting the dojos.

RCRU-09-Dojo.jpg In order to learn new moves, you have to have sufficient XP to be able to acquire it. Unlike the first “River City Ransom”, there are built in controls to limit how quick you can power up your character.

RCRU-10-Stats.png

The limits of your “max” on these stats is driven by your characters XP level. You can buy all the consumables to power up your character but you will hit those limits based on your characters XP level. This will force many hours of beating up rival gangs but it is really quite fun and not tedious at all.

In short, here are what the Stats mean:

ATK – Attack, How much damage you deal with special attacks, not the standard punch and kick but what is considered “special”.

WPN – Weapon, damage inflicted by a strike from a weapon.

THR – Throw, damage from throwing a weapon and presumably throwing an opponent.

AGI – Agility, Effects your character’s stun time (when knocked down, frozen by nerd grenades, etc). Also effects jump attack damage.

DEF – Defense, How much damage you can withstand blocking.

STR – Strength, How much damage you deal hand to hand, punching and kicking.

WLP – Willpower, this can be thought of as a stamina reserve, once you exhaust your stamina, you get a bit of a boost from willpower. This is a good stat to keep full.

STA – Stamina, like many other games, this is your life. Run out of this and you are “dead” which means you lose half of your money and return to the last visited hangout or story element end point.

ENG – Energy, this is not as clear as the other stats but this has to do with how much you can defend yourself before you are no longer able.

SPC – Special, this is another form of energy you have for doing special moves. Special moves are of a greater violence of action and generally do more damage than regular strikes. It is best to use Special moves in conjunction with standard attacks for maximum effectiveness

Visit this Steam Community site for a guide on all the shop items and their stat boosts and meanings of the stats.

What I like

RCRU-Glen-00This game is fun and quite funny. I spent several hours laughing at the absurdity of the 8-bit-like cartoony violence. The variety of characters from which to play is also a fine element that adds another depth of enjoyment. At first I wasn’t keen on the idea because, I didn’t have such variety in 1989 so why do I need it now? This game really does the original “River City Ransom” justice with nods to it all throughout the game. It pokes fun at itself and at the charming ridiculousness of the original. “River City Ransom Underground” is everything that the original game was with so many added elements.

I appreciate how this game starts out at near the end of the original game as a kind of tutorial and walks you through how to use the controls. They kind of rewrite the end of the story a bit to feed into this new adventure. As you start out with the game, there are on screen dialog boxes that will stop the game to give you hints about stamina, willpower and so forth. Many of the screen backdrops are similar enough to the original game that it has a very welcoming familiarity to it but yet adds some additional flare for enjoyment as well as showing neglect. The backdrops are also more interactive than the original. There are things you can break, cars driving, wrecking balls swinging… and much more. The over-world map and subway system is a welcome addition over the original too. I am very much a fan of the “level up” system and how to earn new abilities through the dojos.

The music in the game is also really great. It is similar enough to the sounds of gaming past yet different enough from the original with additional musical elements to not get tiresome to hear for long periods of time.

What I don’t like

Not much, there is not much I don’t like about this game but there are a few nitnoids. The number one is, if the wireless controllers fall asleep because you take a break they can be reassigned to different characters. Not really a big deal if you are playing by yourself but if you have a kid that is VERY particular about using HIS controller. This is enough cause to save and exit the game, come back and re-add players in the desired order. It would be nice if there was a way to associate controllers to player numbers, much like how the Wii U does it.

This game gets Nintendo Hard at times. This isn’t all bad and wouldn’t be as much of an issue if my hand-eye coordination hadn’t degraded over time coupled with the need to learn this new controller scheme. Certainly not the fault of the game.

When you couple the increasing difficulty of the game with some of the story elements that are a bit confusing, I had some frustrating moments. Thankfully there was the Steam forums where that could guide me through these roadblocks.

Final Thoughts

I am a huge fan of the original “River City Ransom” game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Although I was excited to see this new game based on the original, I was a bit hesitant to buy a re-imagined sequel as I hold the original in such high esteem. I also have been out of “modern gaming” for some time.

I enjoy the new characters with their unique fighting styles, the more interactive environment as well as the “shopping” aspect of the game for powering up. The city map that shows your location as well as the location of your objectives and hideouts is extremely valuable. The subway and car traffic is also a great game play addition. The fact that there is a DeLorean driving by, really made my day too.

RCRU-11-DeLorean

I am very glad that Conatus Creative built this game to run in Linux. I run Steam within openSUSE Tumbleweed and I don’t have a real high end gaming machine but this game doesn’t tax my system at all. It will easily run using on an 4th generation Intel Graphics chipset proving that you don’t have to have amazing, high-end graphics to have fun with Video Games. My thanks to the developers for time and care of making this run so efficiently.

“River City Ransom Underground” is a great game that pays great respect to the original. The 8-bit-like graphics and music gives that vintage feel and bits of humor scattered about makes this a fun game for the whole family. The outlandish fighting leaves me belly laughing and just doesn’t get old. This is a GREAT game. I have no buyers remorse, whatsoever. I highly, highly recommend it.

I do hope that this game was lucrative enough that there will be either a sequel or an expansion pack for the game. I would imagine that the hard work is done, most of the elements are there, it’s just a matter of wrapping it around another story, some additional game elements and further refinements.

One can hope.

External Links

River City Ransom on Steam

Steam Install for openSUSE

Conatus Creative

All Shop Items and their Stat Boosts

River City Ransom on the NES

 

TeamViewer 13 on openSUSE

openSUSE-TeamViewer 13-angle

I first started using TeamViewer version 12, last year and it has been a fantastic tool. I reviewed it very positively as it was a great tool for me to access my systems remotely. An often spoken criticism of TeamViewer was that it was a Wine application not a true native Linux application. Unless if you pointed it out or checked your system processes, you would really never know it. TeamViewer 12 was a fantastic application that ran extremely well on Linux.

What is TeamViewer?

TeamViewer allows you to remotely access and administer another machine and interact with it as almost as though you had physical access to it. This remote desktop application works very well even when the connection speed is poor. This is a commercial, closed-source application that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, Android and several others. It has a free for non-commercial version that I greatly encourage you to try out.

Installation

I started with getting the SUSE version from the TeamViewer downloads page. Since I most enjoy using the terminal to do the installation, I navigated to my Downloads folder and performed the install.

sudo zypper in ./teamviewer-suse_13.2.13582.x86_64.rpm

Your version number may vary.

A point of note, after the install, I recommend doing a repository refresh:

sudo zypper refresh

The installation of TeamViewer adds a repository and it will require you to either reject, trust temporarily, or trust always the GPG key for the repository. If you don’t do this the little update applet in the system tray will display annoying notifications periodically.

Changes Since Version 12

TeamViewer-13-2018-07-computers and contacts

A much unwarranted criticism of TeamViewer 12 was the usage of a Wine wrapper for the Linux version. TeamViewer 12 worked smashingly well, incredibly stable and performed well.

With TeamViwer 13, gone is the Wine Wrapper (and hopefully the sneering) as it is now a native Qt application. It admittedly has a more crisp and smoother appearance to it as compared to the previous version. The User Interface truly has a new level of polish. With this change, no features have been lost. It’s all still there.

Some of the Features

The tools are broken down into four sections: Actions, View, Communicate and Files & Extras.

The Actions Menu has options, just as you would expect. Some options are grayed out, presumably that they are premium features, but there is an option under End Session that will End the session and lock. It is nice to see that the Lock function works as you would expect on KDE Plasma.

TeamViewer-13-2018-06-Actions-cropped

The View section has options that seem very self-explanatory. Something to take note is the option to force an Optimize speed or Optimize quality of the remote session. If you have multiple monitors on the remote machine, switching between the monitors is easy and intuitive.

TeamViewer-13-2018-05-View-cropped

Under the Communicate section, there is the ability to chat with the remote user. Should you be doing tech help for a friend or family member, this can be very handy. I haven’t had a need to Switch sides with partner before but I can see where that would come in handy.

TeamViewer-13-2018-04-Switch Sides-cropped

Files & Extras has the option to do screen recording. A feature I can see very handy if you have to show someone how to do something and want them to have a record of it to refer back if needed. The Open file transfer tool is very valuable and super convenient when you have to send off a file as part of the tech help but I have used mostly to send a file to my home computer or the other way around when I am remote.

TeamViewer-13-2018-03-Files and Extras-cropped

Use Cases

My use cases haven’t changed much in the last year, outside of I don’t use it very often with mobile devices. I have found other ways to directly communicate with them using KDE Connect. Where I do use it most is to remote into my home system when I am remote. This is handy when I am working on a project and didn’t want to shut it down and take it with me or to check on a process. It is great to have the flexibility to remote into my home machine finish a project or continue plugging away at something when there is a some white-space in my day. The benefits of remote access to help out friends and family that, on the occasion, have tech questions is a fantastic time saver.

What I Like

TeamViewer-13-2018-02-CroppedThe menu items are the same but everything has a better look about it. The fonts and widgets are smoother and the Toolbar has a pleasant fade to translucent when the mouse moves away from the menu. TeamViewer continues to be very reliable and the same consistent performance. If I were to ever make a business in the Information Systems space, this as a fine solution to do remote desktop support. There are complaints about the expense of it but considering all the features, stability and general polish, the business case is there to use it. The $49 / month offering for a business that has regular need for it seems justifiable. I don’t have that much need for it and thankfully, you can use it for free for non-commercial use.

What I Like Less

The only one, small, regression I have noticed with version 13 is the process of adding new computers to my list. There wasn’t a right-click option to “add this computer” to my computer list. Adding a remote computer is easy enough doing it the manual way entering the ID and password of the machine. This is the only a minor annoyance I have noticed.

Final Thoughts

TeamViewer 13 has a whole new level of polish, has moved away from Wine and is a native Qt application. I am very impressed by the lack of regressions in making this rather significant transition. The application does feel a more responsive but that could just be me getting distracted by all the nice new polish. I didn’t perform any before and after benchmarks to verify.

I continue to be very thankful and grateful that this company builds a version compatible with openSUSE and would allow me to use TeamViewer for non-commercial purposes. I have become very accustomed to this tool and hope for many more years of usage out of it.

Further Reading

TeamViewer 12 on openSUSE Leap

TeamViewer

openSUSE

Wine

KDE Plasma Desktop

KDE Connect

Qt Cross-platform software development