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

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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

openSUSE Tumbleweed on HP Pavilion 15

HP Pavilion-15-00-TW.pngI make no bones about the fact I am a Linux geek and try to make myself available to anyone with tech questions, but I typically will shy away from putting hands on to fix any Windows issues. I just don’t have the time or patience to mess with it. I was approached by a lady in my church with a brand new laptop telling me she wants me to install Linux on it. We talked about what software she uses and the only application I don’t have a solution for (outside of using a VM) is iTunes. Though, it looks like this may be a non-issue as she only uses it on her phone.

The computer is an HP Pavilion 15-cs0034cl with very nice specifications. Much nicer than most of the hardware I own.

Specifications

  • Intel Core i7-8550 @ 1.80GHz
  • 12 GiB of RAM
  • Intel UHD Graphics 630 (Kabylake GT2)
  • Nvidia GeForce MX130
  • Glossy 1920 x 1080 touch screen
  • 2x USB 3 Ports
  • 1 USB-C
  • HDMI
  • A REAL Ethernet port, Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411
  • Intel Corporation Wireless 7265
  • SD Card Reader
  • 1 TB Hard Drive (yes, spinning rust)

Install

I prepared the installation USB Flash Drive by downloading and imaging the drive.

To start out, it is necessary to Access the BIOS: F10

Upon entering the BIOS, was a bit underwhelmed by the interface. It has that early 2000s look to it; mostly blue and gray. It also doesn’t have the breadth of options you would see on a Dell Latitude series of machines. Even one from 10 plus years ago.

In order to access the boot options, arrow over to Boot System Configuration and press enter, then arrow down to Boot Options and press enter.

HP Pavilion-15-01-Bios.jpg

Ensure the following to get the system to boot from the USB Drive:

  • USB Boot is Enabled
  • Secure Boot is Enabled
  • UEFI Boot Order, moved USB Diskette on Key/USB Hard Drive to the top of the list

Save and Exit, and began the installation process.

The install was without issue. In order to make this work, I removed the largest partition and, formatted the EFI partition but left the Microsoft Reserved Partition and Diagnostic Partition intact.

Drive Layout

  • 260.00 MiB for /boot/efi
  • 12.00 GiB Swap
    • I left this at 12 GiB so that should the owner of this machine require suspending to disk, the space is available. Many distros do not ship with this feature turned on but openSUSE does and it seemingly works fine on this machine.
  • 25.00 GiB / (root)
  • 0.86 TiB /home

Nvidia Graphics

To install the Nvidia drivers, taking advantage of the hybrid Intel / Nvidia technolgy, I used the openSUSE Wiki as a reference. It is very nicely laid out, step-by-step.

The Nvidia drivers certainly are an exercise in frustration. Maybe other distributions have the hybrid setups more dialed in but it is installed and usable. Realistically, this machine is not ever going to have to use the Nvidia graphics but it’s nice to know it’s there.

 

Additional Software

I installed my Basic Application List of the multimedia codecs and the Google Chrome browser. I don’t have a lack of faith in Firefox but I know this particular user is more accustomed to Google Chrome.

I also transferred a simple script and .desktop file I put together to assist in keeping the system properly updated with little effort.

What I like

This is a nice solid system that feels quality. I think I like the touch screen but at the same time just seems like a novel feature. The system is fast, thin and light weight. The keyboard isn’t bad and quite possibly one of the HP keyboards I have ever used.

The screen has a unique pivot point that tilts the laptop just a bit when it is opened.

HP Pavilion-15-02-pivot.png

Conveniently, this machine has an Intel Wireless NIC so there wasn’t any effort needed to get it operational. Outside of the Nvidia GPU, there wasn’t any fiddling required on this machine to get everything working.

The screen is really sharp and crisp looking. Based on the screen and keyboard alone, I could certainly use this as a daily driver.

What Don’t Like

I would prefer to have an AMD GPU as it is easier to use for the hybrid function. AMD has also open sourced their drivers so there is nothing that has to be done to get the needed performance out of your system. I still like having an optical media drive, tho admittedly, I am not using one as often as I used to but I still prefer having one built in.

I also don’t like people touching my screen…

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t able to test the USB-C port as I don’t have anything that to plug into it. Everything for this machine works right out of the gate. I would recommend this machine for most people as it will do what most people need. I only tested Tux Racer on this machine and it ran smashingly well, without any screen tearing or glitching.

I will be likely supporting this machine for quite a while but I don’t mind helping others get off of the proprietary software wagon. I am a big believer in owning your own hardware, having something that is more secure on a platform you can trust.

Here is to hoping this conversion to Linux goes well!

References

Base Application List

openSUSE Wiki on NVIDIA Bumblebee

Simple Tumbleweed Distribution Upgrade Script

Windows 95 on openSUSE Linux

As I was watching my oldest son play Minecraft, I was rather amused by the buttons and widgets for the interface, they were very Windows 95. Although I was more of an Amiga user at that time, we did have a Windows 95 machine in the house to do… Windowsy things like that whole Microsoft Office thing. Something my Dad needed for work or his community, local government involvement. Regardless, fond memories of the mid to late 90s and computers.

I told my boy, rather excitedly about Windows 95 and to my surprise, there is an electron app I can install into Linux, Windows or Mac OS.

Installation

I downloaded the RPM from here:

https://github.com/felixrieseberg/windows95

and installed it,

sudo zypper in ~/Downloads/rpms/windows95-linux-1.3.0.x86_64.rpm

Upon running it, I was greeted with a start screen. For the purposes of my level of usage, the big center button “Start Windows 95” is all I need, for now.

Win95-01

Once it is booted up… or rather the state is restored there is a nice message from the developer and a round of Solitaire ready to go.

Win95-03.png

For nostalgia sake, I played a game of FreeCell, and won.

Win95-04.png

As far as FreeCell games go, the Windows 95 version is still my favorite… for reasons I don’t exactly know. The version on the Amiga or KDE Plasma’s KPatience are absolutely better but something about this version always leaves me with a smile.

It is also somewhat noteworthy that the idea of the Control Panel is still in use on KDE Plasma. Not sure if we can thank Microsoft for this or not as I do recall a “Preferences Folder” on the Amiga Workbench.

Win95-05.png

After enthusiastically showing my boy a Windows 95 computer, he looked at it, paused and just said, “cool.” and went back to playing Minecraft.

Final Thoughts

He was right, it is cool and there is a lot you can do with this. At this time, I was not able to get network access to do any meaningful and with only 53 MB free on the C: Drive, there isn’t much I can install. BUT, if I rebuild the image… there are several old games I would like to see if I can get running in it, although, not the most efficient way to do so, it would be fun, just because.

References

Windows 95 on GitHub

Upgrade Reliability of openSUSE Tumbleweed

AspireOne_TumbleweedFor fun… or maybe negligence… I hadn’t updated one of my openSUSE Tumbleweed netbooks. As a rolling distribution of Linux, it is generally considered in bad form to not keep it updated as it will likely break the installation. Not so with Tumbleweed.

The System

Acer Aspire One D255E Netbook

  • Intel Atom CPU N455 @ 1.66GHz
  • 2 GB DDR3 Memory
  • 250 GB HDD
  • Intel GPU with 1024×600 screen resolution
  • Runs openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE Plasma
  • Last updated 02 May 2018,
  • Kernel 4.16.7
  • KDE Plasma 5.12.4
  • KDE Framework Version 5.45.0
  • QT Version 5.10.0

sudo zypper dup

After updating the repositories and some churning a couple repository switches for two packages, there were a total of 2902 packages to be downloaded and installed. This included:

  • Kernel 4.18.0
  • KDE Plasma version 5.13.4
  • KDE Frameworks Version: 5.48.0
  • Qt Version 5.11.1

After about two hours of that little netbook cranking away, downloading and installing, the upgrade was complete. The machine rebooted without a single incident. Not a bit of strange behavior or fiddling required to use the computer. It just worked.

I was curious to know, how many snapshots were released since the last update. According to this page,  there were 54 snapshots released by the Tumbleweed team. That means there were enough changes to spin up a new ISO of Tumbleweed 54 times!

How does it run?

Upon the system settling, I wanted to check the memory usage. A total of 489 MiB was being used by the system. Since Firefox and Chrome tend to be a bit heavy to use, I installed Falkon Web Browser and started to dink around a little bit. The machine is obviously a bit slow but runs well enough to be useful. Monitoring CPU usage, there were few spikes or periods of the CPU maxing out. I am impressed by how few resources that are actually being used.

As far as how performant this machine is? It’s not. Not at all nor do I expect it to be. I don’t know that this machine is any slower than when it originally Ran Windows 7 Starter but comparatively to other systems, it can be just a bit painful to use outside of casual web browsing but it does play Tux Racer quite well.

Final Thoughts

I am impressed by how well openSUSE Tumbleweed can tolerate not being updated for an extended period of time. Two major kernel revisions, Qt version jump, and a KDE Plasma version jump and not a single things is broken even after missing 54 snapshots. Truly a testament to the hard work of all those involved in building and maintaining openSUSE Tumbleweed.

As far as the hardware goes. I really like the size of this netbook; the keyboard is almost full size and it is preferred over a tablet for most purposes and it stands up on its own without any special case. The battery life is still good after 8 years of use and although it feels a BIT flimsy, the build quality is as such that it has survived more than one drop without any catastrophic damage. When this finally goes, I would strongly consider another of the same form factor and build quality.

As with anything, your mileage may vary. Not everyone has the same successes and failures in their cases. I have pretty ordinary hardware so I seem to have constant success with openSUSE Tumbleweed as a very stable and robust platform to run on my machines.

References

Tumbleweed Changes and ISOs

Acer Aspire One D255E Netbook

Falkon One-Click Install for openSUSE

Web Browsing With w3m

w3m-09Sometimes it is just fun to hang out in the terminal and not use all this fancy graphical interface nonsense with annoying advertising, video, GIFs and popups. Since I didn’t “grow up” with this software, I needed to teach myself how to use it. The manual is very complete on w3m but there is much more there than what I need. So, here is my internal notebook on w3m turned public.

I use Konsole as my terminal application of choice on openSUSE. It has been my favorite for years and the default of KDE Plasma. If you would like a more retro terminal browsing experience that takes you back to a more exciting time in computer history, you can install Cool-Retro-Term.

Install the Browser

sudo zypper install w3m

Optionally if you want inline pictures, which can be ropey at times:

sudo zypper install w3m-inline-image

Basic Usage

Since you have already installed this using the terminal, adding anything about “open a terminal first” is a waste of text on the screen.

To initiate the program you must enter a target site for w3m.

w3m cubiclenate.com

Or maybe something that is more useful:

w3m duckduckgo.com

 

The nice thing about this web browser is that it is very “tab-key friendly.” Press Tab or left-click, into the search area. To enter text, press Enter.

w3m-01.png

The cursor will go to the lower left hand corner of the terminal with a TEXT: prompt, enter your text and hit Enter.

It will return your cursor back to the search line. Press the Tab or Right-Arrow key to take you to [Search] and press Enter.

w3m-03

Congratulations, you have completed your first search on w3m.

w3m-04.png

Navigation

Searching is great, but you need to know how to actually navigate with w3m.

Arrow-Up / Arrow-Down

Jumps from hyperlink to hyperlink

Enter, Right-Arrow, Left-Double-Click

Select hyperlink

Left-Arrow, Ctrl-b

Back Page

Right-Click Menuw3m-06-crop.png

If you are using w3m in a mouse enabled environment, as I would typically do, right-click anywhere on the screen and this handy little menu will pop up.

This is nice to have because you don’t have to remember the keystrokes. Although, the keystrokes are the whole reason I like using this browser. It give the mouse (or touchpad) a break.

More Nifty Web Browsing Commands

Reload Page

Ctrl-r

Open Link on New Tab

Ctrl-t

This will start another tab as you would expect from a modern browsers.

Switch Tab

Esc, t

Use up / down arrow keys to select the tab and press Enter

w3m-08.png

Close Tab

Esc, t

Shift+D

Open Page in External Browser

Shift+M

Your external browser preference can be adjusted to suit your needs, you can even add more browser options.

w3m-07.png

Final Thoughts

This is a handy browser that is incredibly light weight. It works very well in Konsole, although the images can sometimes bleed over onto the menu bar of the application.

I use this browser somewhat frequently, mostly on sites that have far too much Java code and hog memory resources. This browser displays the information that I want and tends to discard the undesirable cruft found on many sites. Also, if the site just won’t display well in w3m, it is a poorly made site.

If this browser works for you and you find this simple guide useful, great! If this isn’t something that works for you or you find this blathering a waste of your time it was barely 600 words so you aren’t out much time. I have been annoyed by some of the more feature rich browsers so w3m has been refreshing to use. Should this browser not meet your needs here are plenty of other web browser options out there that might do a better job. I primarily put this together for me anyway.

Further Reading

http://w3m.sourceforge.net/

w3m from openSUSE

Cool-Retro-Term

YouTube Classic Extension on Firefox

Turtle YouTube

I have noticed as of late how clunky YouTube has become. The “dynamically loading content”, which I don’t remember asking for, has these weird pulsating boxes and you have to wait longer to get what you want. In what world does slower loading text make sense?

A Solution Presents Itself

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Linux Action News, and on episode 64, one of the items discussed was this YouTube Classic extension and how having it installed improves load times. I was interested in trying it. I installed the extension through the Add-on manager and boom, done, nothing else to do but enjoy the reduced wait time with YouTube. Visually, it takes YouTube back a few years to, what I consider, a much better YouTube experience.

YouTube Classic Extension.png

Interestingly, there is a Chrome extension but Google has decided to remove it from the Google Chrome Web Store. One could draw the conclusion that Google prefers a less efficient YouTube experience. It is still possible to “side load” the extension. You can read more here on the GitHub page if you are interested. I have been drifting away from using Chrome so it is not really a priority to get it working.

Final Thoughts

Although, I have increased the usage of the Falkon browser, I still prefer to use Firefox for YouTube for the Plasma Integration plus KDE Connect which allows me to start and stop YouTube from the phone or my not-so-fancy Bluetooth headphones (no KDE Connect necessary for that).

If you are annoyed by pulsating boxes of dynamically loading content and want a more zippy static feel, this is most certainly the extension to have in Firefox. It would be fantastic if I could fix all websites “dynamic content” but that is not available… yet…

Further Reading

Linux Action News, episode 64

YouTube Classic Extension

YouTube Classic Extension GitHub page

Falkon Browser Home Page