NetRunner | Review from an openSUSE User

NetRunner (19.08) is not one of those distributions I hear touting its uniqueness and wonders loudly on the Internet. As part of a two week challenge for BigDaddyLinux Live, I lassoed an ISO and took it for a spin on a VM. Some may argue that a VM doesn’t make for a good test experience and I would agree to that, sort of… This is not going to be a test of NetRunner’s performance on bare metal but rather, this is an impression of how the developers are answering the operating system question.

Bottom Line Up Front, NetRunner has a look of its own. The default software is refreshingly not minimal as that seems to be the talk of many Linux enthusiasts (I blame Arch for that). The included pieces of software makes for a great showcase of the various KDE applications. Personally, this is a good approach for most users. Those minimal installation folks should just learn to remove software using the package manager if that is such a huge issue. I am not keen on the default theme with the red cursor and the lack of a usable Dark NetRunner theme. Aside from that, it appears to be a good KDE Plasma experience and a fine showcase of the various applications a Linux user should try. This is my biased review of NetRunner as an openSUSE user.

Installation

The installation of NetRunner, like most of the Linux world is very straight forward and not problematic. Although, I realize that this is not a shared view among all users, this is my experience.

The bootloader gave some options so I wanted to play around with them. Unfortunately, the Memory test didn’t work for me but it was a neat idea.

Rather than continue to play around with these tools, I decided I would go ahead and unwrap this NetRunner present and see how it goes for me.

Essentially, a few moments later and the Desktop presented itself in all it’s KDE Plasma beauty. The default look is fine with me. Not my preference but I don’t expect every distribution to ship my preference, that would be silly and would undoubtedly make touring other distros incredibly boring.

The installation process uses the Calamares installer so it is incredibly easy to do. Thankfully, there isn’t any scavenger hunt required to initiate the installation. Once the installer has settled, select your Language and Location.

Next will be your keyboard layout and your partition scheme. I chose to erase the entire disk. It is interesting to note that the default Swap size is twice your RAM amount plus a little extra for good measure.

The last bit of using your noodle to get this set up is to set your user name and root password. Once complete, you are given a Summary and final sanity check before you commit to the installation.

The installation doesn’t take before it is finished which gives you a great opportunity to read the installation propaganda as you wait, or you can go do other things as I did and come back when it is done.

When you are done, feel free to reboot or hang out in the live session, whichever works for you. I wanted to see how quickly this would boot and I wanted to dig into it.

First Run and Impressions

The boot time was reasonable. Not lighting fast but reasonable and of the speed that I would have no complaints. Ultimately, I would rather it boot every time than boot occasionally really fast and leave you scratching your head when it doesn’t choose to boot.

The login screen or sometimes called “Display Manager” looked nice enough. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it made me feel like it was an older layout. That might be me and if we were in court, I would expect the other lawyer to object to that and strike it from the record.

The desktop does look nice, but I am not sure about that red cursor. It does bring back the happy smiles of the Amiga OS as it did back in the early 90s. The version of Plasma that shipped with NetRunner 19.08 is 5.14.5. A bit older as it was released in October of 2018 but not a bad version at all. It should also be noted that this is not an LTS version either.

The menu is the Application Dashboard. This is not my favorite menu system but that is easily changed. I do admit, it is a nice looking interface but it is just not for me. I don’t like menus that block out my desktop.

The game selection brought a smile to my face. I am glad to see Steam is installed by default. If you are into gaming, Steam is your portal to a wide selection of electric joy. I would have liked to have seen Lutris too but one out of two is not too bad. Excitingly, a game that I did forget about was BurgerSpace. It is a BurgerTime clone that I played on the Intellivision as a kid. Although, BurgerSpace doesn’t have the fun 8-bit music as the original, it was still fun to play… until I couldn’t get down the ladder…

I wanted to explore further the different applications. I found it interesting that there is a Skype client by default. The multimedia applications installed by default are some that I use. Handbrake and Kdenlive are two that I use with some frequency. There isn’t VLC but SMPlayer is available which is fine. The Web Camera application is Cheese which is also fine.

The Web applications section I thought was curious. Telegram was good to see but I scratched my head on the WhatsApp. I know that is used by many but the juxtaposition with having it alongside Hooktube seemed odd. Hooktube divorces you from the YouTube-ness of YouTube while WhatsApp is an application that will be collecting on you. It is easy enough to remove but I just thought it odd. I am sure that there is a valid reason for the selection, I just don’t know what that is.

The software package manager is very decent and I like the interface very much. It’s very clear on how to use, perhaps overwhelming for a new or less technical user but it is perfectly usable. I have found that there is this rather large section of the populous that doesn’t like to read and a wall of text can be overwhelming when there isn’t a giant “GO” or “NEXT” button to guide their eyes. When committing to updates, authentication is required. This is in contrast to what I am most accustomed in openSUSE.

What I found fascinating is that I found interesting is that it looked like the critical updates were not automatically included. Perhaps they were not selected or I had done something wrong but I would assume that these would be priority. I completed these updates and rebooted the system to take advantage of the new kernel and such.

The default NetRunner theme is too light for my liking. I went into the System Settings to correct this deficiency and unfortunately, I was met with less than stellar results. Somehow there seems to be something wedged in the theme engine that makes even the Breeze Dark theme unusable.

It didn’t seem to matter which dark theme I chose, NetRunner, changed the colors, Breeze Dark, use the Dark Color scheme, the result was the same in that it was not possible to read the text as any contrast was lost. For whatever reason, the desktop was not respecting my request.

This is basically a deal breaker for me. I do not like light themes… at all… and if I cannot allow my eyes to take a break from the light pollution, I am not a happy user. Just a mention, but I did notice that there was some reorganizing in the menu selection. Plasma Tweaks was an additional section that included all the visual tweaking settings. It seemed redundant and a silly call back to the Gnome Tweaks mess of applications.

There are some other interesting applications included in NetRunner that are worth looking into but I have already blathered on far too long about my first impressions.

What I Like

NetRunner does not do the rather common nonsense approach of not bundling software with their desktop environment. They have taken the time to include a nice and sensible selection of applications to get you going right out of the gate. Quite literally, after a short installation cycle, you can be up and running, creating, playing or doing very typical computer based tasks. The selection, although somewhat peculiar is a great showcase of applications.

The package manger, Synaptic, is frankly, one of my long time favorite package managers ever in Linux. It is the Debian staple of managing your packages and no Debian system should be without it. The fact that it is installed by default is a huge positive. As nice as the software centers are for discovery of applications, Synaptic just does the job better.

What I Don’t Like

The theme, something is wrong with the theme and how Plasma handles themes. I am sure I could correct it with enough time but that is a pretty significant annoyance. I would prefer NetRunner just use the standard Breeze themes and modify it to whatever would make it uniquely NetRunner with maybe a different shade of blue and the logos. Making the theme as such that I cannot read the text when switching it to a dark color scheme is a no go.

There isn’t a system control panel like you would find on the openSUSE or MX Linux distributions. I find YaST to be such an important tool for any system I set up. The KDE System Settings is great for user level settings but not the best for system wide settings, user management and the like. If I could wave the magic wand, I would like to seem more distributions use something like YaST, if not YaST itself on their distros for better system management.

The Software selection, although mostly great had me less than happy about having Skype and WhatsApp installed by default. This might make me sound like an old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but I have made it a point to push people away from such services and use them only if necessary. Having these installed by default don’t make me smile, I would much prefer to see other, less invasive applications in their place. Telegram was nice to see so there is that.

Final Thoughts

NetRunner is a distribution that is clearly focused squarely on it’s own goals and appearance. If you aren’t going to stray from what they have set in place, this will do nicely for you. The software selection is a great start as a sensible base of applications and also has some applications that should probably be removed

I am not exactly sure what I think of NetRunner. I like much of what they are trying to accomplish, I appreciate that they are doing their own thing and seemingly have a goal in mind of targeting a general user with this distribution. At the same time, I do not like some of their defaults and find some of there selection, not to my liking. Would I recommend NetRunner for someone to try? Yes, but it wouldn’t be the first I would recommend. It scores high on the ease of installation but low on the ability to cleanly customize it. It scores high on default software selection but bothers me that they have selected some other applications. Overall, it is a decent distribution and if you are not satisfied with your current experience, this is worth a try.

Would I switch from openSUSE to NetRunner? No, not a chance but I am glad NetRunner is out there and answering the software needs for many people.

References

NetRunner Download
Calamares Project
BigDaddyLinux Live Discorse on NetRunner

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Noodlings | BTRFS, Ultra Widescreens and Floppy Drives

Not having faded into the Podcast ether yet, I bring this nonsense to you almost a week late. At least, a week later than I wanted to complete this. In an effort to keep you interested

The 7th Noodling place of unrest

BTRFS

I have been using BTRFS on all of my openSUSE machines without issue. In my quest to build a new multi-roll system to act as a server, workstation and occasional casual desktop use, I wanted to have a storage solution that was very fault tolerant and would allow me to expand my disk size with minimal effort. That is in both replacing individual drives with larger drives and potentially adding another controller card to have more drives.

ZFS is in the news as the new “hotness” for a file system and it does indeed have a lot of the really awesome features BTRFS provides, maybe more but support in Linux doesn’t appear to be as robust as BTRFS. Could my mind change in the future? Absolutely, but for now, until I get the stability of BTRFS on root, the snapshot system and the ease of flexibility in altering the array of storage, I will stick with BTRFS.

https://btrfs.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Using_Btrfs_with_Multiple_Devices

Ultra Widescreen Monitors

I have been looking at doing an upgrade to my monitor situation, for numerous reasons. The monitors I am using are of unequal resolution, size and aspect ratio, it has been fine but I am becoming less satisfied with its usability. This is especially true since I started to use some of the tiling techniques built into Plasma. I just happen to need more pixels. Looking at my available options, I became interested in one of these 1440p monitors. My issue is, I am not interested in a curved monitor. I think they look just a bit silly and I don’t stand directly in front of the computer all the time. Interestingly, it seems as though the curved screens are less expensive then their flat counterparts with the same resolution and frequency. Although I would prefer a flat screen, it is more economical and of better specifications to go with the curved model.

I’m not prepared to make a purchase today as I need to do some more research on the subject but I am now very much interested in a single 1440p monitor rather than my two cobbled, odd lots hanging above my laptop.

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/80345/intel-core-i7-4610m-processor-4m-cache-up-to-3-70-ghz.html

End to Floppy Drives

US military has been using 8-inch floppy disks in an antiquated ’70s computer to receive nuclear launch orders from the President. Now, the US strategic command has announced that it has replaced the drives with a “highly-secure solid state digital storage solution,” Lt. Col. Jason Rossi

The 8-inch floppy disks have been used in an ancient system called the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS.

It’s used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centers to field forces, and is unhackable precisely because it was created long before the internet existed. “You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address.

Despite the age of the system, the Air Force is confident in its security and has a pretty good handle on maintaining it. By contrast, installing an all-new system isn’t as easy as it sounds. “You have to be able to certify that an adversary can’t take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it’s supposed to do when you call on it,”

https://www.engadget.com/2019/10/18/us-military-nuclear-missiles-floppy-disks/?guccounter=1

Sad Commodore 64 News

My U13 Logic chip is likely failing. I am sure it’s not the RAM as I am having an intermittent problem with my system. Sometimes I get a blank screen and sometimes some garbled mess of characters in a range of colors. Based on the likely causes, I am quite sure it is the 74LS257A Logic IC. That should cost me less than $1 for the part and around $10 on shipping.

https://retrocomputerverzamelaar.nl/commodore-64-problems/
https://www.retroleum.co.uk/results.php?q=logic

BDLL Follow Up

I am late on the release of this podcast, not because I am fading out already, but because of life things. Regardless, I wanted to follow up on a BDLL from 19 October 2019. The discussion was about distro hopping, why Linux users distro hop. Often when people are new to Linux, they hop around and try new distributions. Some people like to jump around every time there is something new released.

Some Distros cater to some bits of hardware better than others. MX Linux on old hardware, openSUSE on newer hardware, Manjaro or Pop!_OS for gaming. Debian for obscure hardware. Ubuntu and its flavors for the mainstream.

I am not a distro hopper, embed myself, decided to stick around and help out to the best of my ability.

Between Mandrake / Mandriva fading and embedding into openSUSE I jumped around a bit. When I decided on openSUSE, I knew it wasn’t perfect, there were some issues but they were easily mitigated, I was most enamored with the friendly and helpful community along with the “ecosystem” of tools around openSUSE. The ease of installing software the graphical way and a pretty awesome wiki.

I mostly try out other distros to see what else is out there. Nothing ever seems to capture me like openSUSE. There are many good choices of Linux and I would probably be content elsewhere but nothing quite gives me the excitement that the green chameleon clad openSUSE provides.

BigDaddyLinux Live 19 October 2019

openSUSE Corner

Lots of snapshots have rolled through with new software and subsequent bug fixes. Of note Plasma 5.17.0 has arrived in all of it’s Glory

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191009 20191011 20191012 20191014

Firefox has been updated to version 69.0.2 which contained a single fix for Linux-only crashes when changing the playback speed of YouTube videos. Fwupd shipped at version 1.3.1, that is a daemon that allows session software to update the firmware. It now allows for disabling of all plugins and added support for thunderbolt interfae for kernel safety checks. Gstreamer and many of it’s plugins were updated to version 1.16.1 which offered performance improvements. nodejs12, python-packaging and tcpdump were updated to address more than two dozen CVEs.

Plamsa 5.17.0 arrived with some significant changes to the new version. The release announcement says that this new version is as lightweight and thrifty with resources as ever before. Notably, the start-up scripts were converted from a slower Bash to a faster C++ and now run asynchronously, which means it can run several tasks simultaneously, instead of having to run them in sequence. KDE Applications 19.08.2 improved High-DPI support in Konsole and other applications. Many bug fixes in Kmail and saving messages directly to remote folders has been restored. Many other KDE applications received updates as well. e2fsprogs update 1.45.5 addressed a CVE where an attacker would have been able to corrupt an ext4 partition. Updates to gnutls, Nano and php7 were also included.

Mumble was finally updated to 1.3.0 after getting through the rigorous legal review of the SUSE lawyers and now those crazy lips are gone.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20191009 a moderate score of a 90; 20191011 a stable score of 92; 20191012 a stable score of 96; and 20191014 a moderate score of 82.

The Project Name Change Vote Continues

The discussion around changing the name of the project is still continuing in the mailing list. The vote has been extended out to the 7th of November, 2019. It has been decided to create a wiki page to consolidate the information. The keypoints can be summarized by the following:

For Keeping the project name

  • If the name is changed, we would lose brand reputation earned over the years.
  • Many members and other contributors are strongly attached to the current name.
  • Changing the name might give the impression that the relationship between SUSE and openSUSE is strained.
  • A lot of work will be required to rename domains, OBS projects and metadata, GitHub namespace, packages trademarks, etc.
  • Rebranding requires a tremendous amount of communication (and money) over years to establish the new brand name.
  • SUSE can transfer or license relevant trademarks to an openSUSE Foundation.
  • The relationship with SUSE is part of our marketing strategy, e.g. Leap/SLE’s shared codebase.
  • Changing the project name will make current openSUSE swag (T-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc) obsolete.

Reasons in favor of the name change

  • openSUSE is often typed and/or pronounced incorrectly (e.g. OpenSUSE, OpenSuSE etc). Watch how do you say SUSE?
  • The Free Software Foundation (FSF) complains about the looseness of the term “open”.
  • The distinction between openSUSE and SUSE can be confusing to people new to either brand. Some people have been known to shorten openSUSE to SUSE.
  • If the community thinks that the project benefits from a new name then this is the moment to change it, i.e. before registering a new legal structure (like a foundation).

My thoughts on this, the reasons for a name change seams superfluous. Although I understand the there is some confusion and how it is typed is often wrong, those do not outweigh the marketing strategy of the Leap/SLE’s shared codebase, the amount of work that would go into rebranding, renaming and making all the cool things I have today obsolete.

I think it is good that we the openSUSE community have this discussion. It has been good for me as I can reflect on my reasons I don’t care for it and rather than just make it an emotional and close-minded decision, I can look at the facts and make a rational decision to keep the name just as it is.

If the name changes, I won’t be upset, disappointed, yes, but not upset. It is the community and the technology that I like, the name is secondary.

Manjaro | Review from an openSUSE User

There are many flavors of Linux, we call them distributions but in a way, I think “flavor” is a good word for it as some some are a sweet and delightful experience while with others a lingering, foul taste remains. Manjaro has not left a foul taste in any way. In full disclosure, I am not a fan of Arch based Linux distributions. I appreciate the idea of this one-step-removed Gentoo and for those that really like to get into the nitty-gritty bits Arch is good for that. My problem with Arch is the lack of quality assurance. The official repository on Arch Wiki describes the process of how core packages need to be signed off by developers before they are allowed to move from staging into the official repositories. With the rate at which packages come in, it is almost an impossibility that through manual testing software will continue to work well with other software as some dependencies may change. Admittedly, I don’t use it daily, outside of VMs for testing nor do I have a lot of software installed so this is not going to be a problem I am likely to experience.

Manjaro, from my less than professional opinion, is a slightly slower rolling Arch that seems to do more testing and the process, from what I understand, is similar. Developers have to approve the packages before they are moved into the official repositories. I also understand that there isn’t any automated QA to perform any testing so this is all reliant on user or community testing, which, seemingly, Manjaro is doing a good job of it.

My dance with Manjaro is as part of a BigDaddyLinuxLive Community challenge, to give it a fair shake and share your experience.

This is my review of Manjaro with the Plasma Desktop. Bottom Line Up Front, this is quite possibly the safest and most stable route if you like the Arch model. In the time I ran it, I didn’t have any issues with it. The default Plasma Desktop is quite nice, and the default themes are also top notch. The graphical package manager works fantastically well and you do have Snap support right out of the gate. It’s truly a great experience. Was it good enough to push me from my precious openSUSE? No, but it has made for a contender and something about which to think.

Installation

The installation process was as smooth as room temperature butter and felt incredibly refined. The installation media greets with a very nicely themed boot loader to which the default option is to boot Manjaro. Very quickly you are brought into a live session where you can begin to do some exploration.

Since I was doing this in a VM, I did have some VM-isms, that made this look less than stellar, initially. Since I wanted to get to installation, straight away, I went right for that icon on the desktop. Nice to see that the icon was on the desktop, not hidden away giving you a scavenger hunt as your first objective for the installation. This is using the Calamares installer so it is incredibly straight forward and new-user approachable. You are initially asked for your language preference, then to set your location.

Your next objective in this installation is to select your keyboard layout. Then to set your partitions. My preference, for this installation was to Erase the disk and I didn’t add any Swap. Although, I recently learned that doing so is not the best idea for system stability.

You next step in this journey is to tell Majaro, who you are in the Users step. Here you will enter your name, your username, the name of your computer, set your user password and administrator password. Here you can set the system to log in automatically and to use the same password for the administrator account. The next step is a somewhat new entry into this process, as I’m told, but you can now select your Office Suite. The three options are: No Office Suite, LibreOffice, and FreeOffice.

I selected FreeOffice for two reasons, one, there was quite the hullabaloo about Manjaro offering it. I am personally quite happy with LibreOffice and I like my options there so this was the perfect opportunity to get some impressions of it.

Finally, you are presented the Installation Summary with a final Sanity Check before proceeding. I always appreciate the sanity check

Then the installation will commence, you can sit back or leave, whatever you want to do at this point. Alternatively, you can read the Manjaro propaganda and become acquainted with the world into which you are stepping.

Here is where I put the image that tells you to reboot… but… I didn’t take that snapshot.

First run and Impressions

Just like the live media version, the installed version of Plasma looks fantastic. Although, to be fair, it is a chore to make Plasma not look fantastic.

This time, however, I wanted to do some exploration of the Welcome and also leave it set to launch at start so that I can return to it on my next boot. My first stop was at the center column, bottom row, Applications.

This curious application, called Manjaro Application Maintenance was highly structured and very easy to get around and understand what is going on. For those that like the “minimal” installation. They can very easily go here and remove all the bits they don’t want.

Next on my agenda was to perform updates. In this case, they have a graphical tool so the graphical tool, I decided to use. Warnings are never a point of concern, really, as they are just that, warnings, a spot to slow down and read the situation.

Here there were some warnings about packages being installed before the dependency. It’s odd that the package manager wouldn’t just fix that and reorder how the packages are installed but perhaps it is some sort of circular dependency and this is the warning of that. The updates proceeded but with one slight hitch.

I was not able to do as instructed on here as when I did go to the virtual terminal, I was greeted with nothing, no prompt or anything of that nature. Not a big deal, I just waited until there was no activity from the virtual machine and I sent the power off signal to safely power the thing down.

Upon rebooting the VM with Manjaro, I was once again greeted with the splendidly polished Display Manger and a login prompt. I logged in and everything was as I expected it. I do want to say that having Yakuake installed by default is a fine addition to Plasma. A quick F12 presents a terminal drop down that just screams all kinds of nerdy wonderfulness.

I then wanted to see how the process of installing applications would go with Manjaro. Since I didn’t want to install anything that would pull down a lot of packages, I went for something small that I didn’t really need, KPatience, a Soliaire card game. After all, Windows 3.11 had something similar installed by default.

When you select to install an application you are prompted for you password. This is not the administrator password but the user password. Whether or not that is more or less secure than the root password, I don’t know, but I thought that was worth noting. I also appreciate the “Transaction Summary” given. How that is different than an Installation Summary, I am not sure. Maybe this is a better word for it as you can install and remove applications and those actions combined are “transactions.” Something to think about.

I did have to change the Application Launcher to the Application Menu because… I just happen to find the Menu more appealing.

That is very easily done, as in any Plasma desktop, by right-clicking on the menu icon and selecting, Show Alternatives.

Another noteworthy feature of Manjaro is the Kernel Notifications. I don’t completely know what all this means, what is an “unsupported kernel” and to only notify if running an unsupported kernel but I do understand notifying of a new LTS Kernel. If I were going to take my flag in this distribution, I would recommend becoming well acquainted with this too. I imagine this could very much be the difference between a reboot and run and a reboot and flop.

I also want to congratulate the Manjaro team on a job well done with the Dark Breath theme. Although, when I say it, I feel like I’m saying “Breeze” with a lisp, the Dark Breath theme is so nicely done that I could reach out and give an e-high-five on how it looks. Different then the Breeze but equally as nice.

The desktop and Manjaro specific tools all feel well orchestrated. Aside from my upgrade hiccup, which I want to stress is a hiccup, I was able to keep flying along. I do want to note that the only other time I have seen that screen was when updating a system with proprietary Nvidia drivers on a previous main driver. It was almost a welcome back to see that little notice.

FreeOffice

Since I had to try FreeOffice out… though, without any office tasks to perform, I wanted to see how it looked and felt. Just on the surface because this is not a review of FreeOffice, just an impression. I was immediately impressed by the ease of picking your theme. Not only did you have the choice in dark or light themes, you also had a choice in the annoying ribbon layout or traditional and much more useful classic menus and toolbars.

The first application to click-around in this office suite was the word-processor called TextMaker. I really liked the presentation of it as it immediately gave me happy feelings. The ribbon layout was what you would expect but the part I didn’t care for was the additional menu bar of new, open, save, undo, redo, etc. I prefer the LibreOffice execution of that as it moves that inline with the File, Home, Insert, Layout etc… tabs. Not a big deal. I didn’t dig into it but I am sure that it is customizable to some degree.

The next application in this sweet suite of office tools is the spreadsheet application called PlanMaker. It has a similar feel as TextMaker and had the basic functions for which I would be using. I did find the ribbon a bit excessive on the screen real-estate but again, this is just an impression. I could very easily go back to the more efficient layout.

The last application in this suite is called simply Presentations and it also is about what I would expect. I didn’t create any presentations with it but the impressions by clicking about did give me the impression that I would be able to bore anybody with an unnecessary slide show.

The only thing I hadn’t checked yet was the file dialog. I must say, I did not like this. It was the only thing I didn’t like about FreeOffice on my tour of impressions. It was very 2002 in appearance and although I’m sure it is quite functional, it is not what I would consider modern. Although, the GTK dialog isn’t any better, so if we are comparing it to that I guess it’s fine. I would have preferred some sort of Plasma integration here so that it used the Plasma File Dialog.

Really, all applications and desktop environments should really use the Plasma file dialog, anything but that is a sore disappointment in user interface.

Overall, FreeOffice is nice, certainly very usable and has a nice polish to it. I don’t think I would replace LibreOffice with it as I do use the Draw and Math functions of that and I haven’t run into a compatibility issue in a long time. I am glad that Manjaro gave me the opportunity to kick the tires on it.

What I Like

I like the fact that Manjaro give the option, right out of the gate, to pick your office suite. I would haven’t ever tried anything other than LibreOffice had I not had the option. Although I have decided to continue to use LibreOffice, I appreciate being presented an alternative.

Pamac-CLI is a kind of shim to make Pacman not ridiculous. It converts all the nonsense commands of pacman into something that is human readable and intuitive. For example, to install a software package:

pamac install [options]

Which makes a lot more sense than

pacman -S [option]

For more information about pamac: https://forum.manjaro.org/t/pamac-cli/

Breath Dark theme is well done. It give Manjaro Plasma edition a unique feel but just every so subtly. Also, green is a great color to go with if you are going to set a highlight color.

Default software selection is very satisfactory, so much so that I had to find some oddball thing to install just to go through the process. I still prefer to have VLC over other media players and Firefox over other web browsers. I like that they chose to include Konversation for IRC and Steam for games.

A nice surprise was to see that SUSE Imagewriter was included on the Manjaro installation for writing images to Removable media. Interestingly, not even openSUSE includes that by default.

What I Don’t Like

It fundamentally still uses Arch as the base and although pamac-cli is a nice shim to offset the nonsense that is pacman. I do prefer having sensible and intuitive terminal commands. There are too many to remember, I don’t have the patience to faff with the game of scrabble in command options.

The Plasma screen locker crash did bother me a bit as and I’m not sure where the blame is to be had for that. I don’t have an nvidia driver so maybe the issue was with the package resolver (ahem, Pacman) that didn’t order things properly. I don’t know.

Manjaro used Ext4 for the file system. That means, I don’t know how I would roll back a bad update. I think running a rolling distribution without that safeguard is asking for trouble. For this alone, I am much relieved that I have BTRFS on my root file system for snapshots. Should anything go wrong, rolling back is trivial.

Final Thoughts

Manjaro is a fine distribution but it has the one glaring shortcoming that is, it is Arch based. Since I have had such a bad taste in my mouth for Arch, I just wouldn’t consider using this. Perhaps, if my first experience with Arch was Manjaro, things would be different. Had I not ever messed with Pacman maybe I wouldn’t be so obstinate about it. Although, fundamentally, I am not real confident in the QA process of Manjaro or any Arch based distribution. I would be more inclined to trust it if it was built on something like the Open Build Service with openQA automating the testing process to knock out most of the rough edges along with user testing.

For me, I will stick with my openSUSE Tumbleweed with my snapshot rollback system, should the automated and human testing allow something to slip through that takes my system down or I muck about, I can always undo it and keep sailing.

Just because I am over biased about Arch, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Manjaro a try. It is certainly well done and the developers have a fantastic passion for the project. That passion alone is almost enough to nullify all my reservations about the project.

References

https://manjaro.org/
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Official_repositories
https://forum.manjaro.org/t/pamac-cli/52787
https://discourse.bigdaddylinux.com/t/manjaro-18-1-oct-5-and-oct-12/389
Big Daddy Linux Live 12 Oct 2019
Big Daddy Linux Live European Edition 12 Oct 2019
Big Daddy Linux Live 05 Oct 2019
https://calamares.io/

Kim | KDE Plasma Graphics Service Menu

There comes a time when I realize I want to be lazy about something and one of those things is converting images. Sure, I could be a super nerd and do a batch conversion of images in the terminal but today was not that day. I wanted Dolphin, the Plasma default file manager to do the work for me. I remembered in a kind of vague, dream like haziness remember Dolphin or Konqueror doing this long ago. So, it was time to do some Web-Search-Foo and figure things out. After a bit of time, I came upon something called Kim. It is described as, “A very useful images KDE service menu”. That was worded kind of funny… so I would describe it, “A very useful service menu for basic manipulation of images.”

Installation

Installation on openSUSE is very straight forward. Probably very similar on other distributions.

sudo zypper install kim

According to the package details, Kim is a KDE service menu which allows to resize, convert and rotate your images without to use a graphical application like Gimp! This service menu can be considered as a front-end of ImageMagick.

Main features of Kim: Compress and resize

  • Compress to 70%, 80%, 90% or other
  • Resize to 300 x 225, 600 x 450, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1200 x 900 or Other
  • Resize and compress for the web
  • Convert in JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF or other,
  • Rotate images.

Treatment and publication

  • Rename images
  • Convert in gray-scale
  • Add a white or black border
  • Watermark images
  • Send by mail resized images.

After installing it, I restarted Dolphin and to my surprise (not really) I had some new options!

The “Service Menu” in Dolphin had three new items on its root menu:

  • Kim – Compress and Resize
  • Kim – Convert and Rotate
  • Kim – Treatment and publication

All the functions are rather self explanatory and can make for quick work in the file manager on making things happen with your image files. To save on some time and because it’s more fun to have some self-discovery than see what some bloke does with it. Here is a preview of the options:

The options that I used to get my work done today was to convert the collection of PNG images into JPG or the system would not accept the package of files. I will likely use this

What I Like

The additional menu items only show up when I am selecting an image so it is not hanging out in the service menu, cluttering things up when manipulating other files. I appreciate that consideration.

Lots and lots of very useful options that are easily accessible. Although I didn’t use the GIF feature, that is something that might be fun to do with a series of pictures. Quick access to resizing and compressing images is quite useful too.

Another great feature is, if you select multiple images and invoke an action, it will modify them all. Converting to a different file format will leave the existing file and add new files with the respective extension. What is very nice is that if you are compressing or resizing it, you are prompted on whether or not you want to replace the existing file.

Incredibly polite!

What I Don’t Like

The entries all start with “Kim -” and not just what the function is. I would prefer just the function alone. I think it would visually be better. It doesn’t take away from the functionality of the application, it is just a preference.

Final Thoughts

Kim is a great addition to the KDE Plasma servicemenu that enhances and extends the function of my desktop. This did save me some time today in converting images and it is likely I will use something like this again in the near future.

Yet another reason why KDE Plasma is a fantastic desktop to use and makes my life just a little bit easier on my day to day tasks.

References

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

Noodlings | Desktops and Window Managers, BDLL and openSUSE News

Another podcast and after listening to the final thing… I sound a bit like cardboard. Maybe episode 3 won’t smell like wet newspaper.

Listen here, it’s only 10 minutes and 30 seconds of cringe-worthy material.

Desktops and Window Managers

I view KDE Plasma as the pinnacle of all things that are the Desktop and portal into your digital life. This is of course my own opinion but really, what else can do as much as Plasma, in as little resources and be as flexible as it is.

Xfce is the GTK desktop that is, in my estimation, the benchmark to which all GTK desktops should be measured against. It is what I would call a “classic” Redmond style interface that is familiar to nearly everybody.

i3 is a very interesting window manager, I would still call it a desktop of sorts though the “hard core” users of it may say otherwise. It uses Gnome so it is encumbered by the Gnome limitations. If it could somehow be Xfce based, it would seemingly make more sense. I did some searching and so far as I can tell, I have not been able to find a Kwin based Window manager as opposed to i3.

11 Best Tiling Window Managers for Linux

What this lead me to was a discovery that Plasma has the capabilities of being a pretty darn decent tiling window manager. In my case, I am using some of the power of tiling with the traditional floating window desktop, so, in effect having the best of both worlds there.

BDLL Recap

There is a lot of talk about bringing new users to Linux and Adam Grubbs set up an Ubuntu Laptop similar to what you might buy from an OEM. Adam wanted to see how a new user might get along with a brand new Linux desktop.

The key bit of the conversation was the user’s experience of setting up Lutris. I have historically used Wine or Crossover to install Windows games on Linux and Lutris wasn’t quite as obvious on how to use it.

There was some difficulty of getting going with Linux, icons were a bit different and, better curation of applications could be a benefit. For example, searching for Steam doesn’t necessarily bring up Steam in an application search.

What is the solution?

I don’t think that there is any one particular solution to solve this for everyone. I am also not sure how “user friendly” Linux needs to be. Where Linux would, most certainly benefit:

  • Documentation Improvements to make it easier to become acquainted with the Linux Desktop
  • Something like Clippy as a built in guide to help you out when you are stumped
  • Ultimately, the strength of Linux is the community, be open to help people problem solve their way through Linux.

The Current BDLL Distro Challenge is Endless OS. This can be downloaded from here.

openSUSE Corner

Snapshots 20190902 20190829

Multiple YaST Packages trickled down with updates.

Libreoffice 6.3.1.1 removed some patches.

The welcome window for openSUSE received more translations for global users with an update of the opensuse-welcome 0.1.6 package.

openSUSE MicroOS, specifically the core appliance buildier Kiwi, has been further updated, it added required cryptomount coding for for EFI boot.

openSUSE MicroOS is designed for container hosts an optimized for large deployments. It benefits from the rolling of Tumbleweed and the SUSE Linux Enterprise hardening and scale of deployment. It is optimized for large deployments but is just as capable with a single container-host. Uses the BTRFS snapshots for updates and rollback.

20190902 snapshot has a very exciting change that really was a long time coming with proper PackageKit integration with Tumbleweed. Unless you have a bunch of crazy repositories, PackageKit will now handle your updates just as well as you would have it in Leap.

Snapshot 20190829 received a moderate score of 90 while 20190902 is trending at moderate 86 and 20190904 at a stable score of 93.

What I am doing with openSUSE

I am working with a Linux community member to create an openSUSE Tumbleweed based replacement for IPFire or pfSense. This is still in progress but as of today, I am real excited about it and the prospect of having an openSUSE based firewall / router with all the flexibility and modularity that it brings.

References

Best Tiling Window Managers for Linux on TecMint.com
openSUSE Tumbleweed Snapshot Review
BDLL Regolith Linux and New User Experience
Adam Grubbs Site
EndlessOS Download
CubicleNate Noodlings | Episode 02

VirtScreen on openSUSE | Turn a Tablet into a Second Monitor

When I take my laptop and I go into a mobile mode, I’m often missing a second or third screen. Frequently, my need isn’t having full motion video or anything of that sort, it’s just the ability to have text displayed in some form, be it PDF or web page, beside my main screen. Most of the time, that is how I use my multi-screen layout. One screen is my main workspace while the others display reference information.

I came upon this long lost solution on the BDLL discourse from Eric Adams.

https://discourse.bigdaddylinux.com/t/use-your-tablet-as-a-monitor-with-virtscreen/104

Key difference in my implementation versus his, both of us using KDE plasma. His solution is probably more elegant and could probably better take advantage of my AMD GPU but my solution is quick and dirty but gets the job done.

Host Device

Since this package is not available in the openSUSE repositories, I downloaded the AppImage here:

https://github.com/kbumsik/VirtScreen

There are further instructions on that page but I am going to only highlight how I used it on openSUSE Tumbleweed with the Plasma Desktop Environment. Looking at the system requirements, I had to install X11VNC

sudo zypper install x11vnc

Since I used the AppImage, I had to make it executable. To do that in terminal, navigate to the location of the AppImage and run this:

chmod a+x VirtScreen.AppImage

Alternatively, if you are using Plasma with the Dolphin file manager, navigate to the location of the AppImage, right-click, select Properties (or Alt+Enter when highlighted). Select the Permissions tab and select the Is executable button.

Upon Launching it, I set the resolution of my Tablet, which is my HP Touchpad that I set up with F-Droid. I made an adjustment to the Height to adjust for the navigation buttons that seem to get stuck in the ON position.

I selected the Enable Virtual Screen.

Next, I needed to Open Display Settings to arrange the screens.

Unfortunately, there was an error that caused the display settings to not open. I went into the preferences to see what the other options were. Since I know I didn’t want Gnome, I went with ARandR.

Since it wasn’t installed, I went to openSUSE Software and searched for it.

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

After installing ARandR, VirtScreen still could not launch ARandR. Thankfully, I was able to launch ARandR using Krunner (menu works too) and made the adjustment to the screen location.

The next step was to activate the VNC Server within VirtScreen by setting the password and opening up the appropriate port in the Firewall. Since the openSUSE default is Firewalld at the time of writing. You can either do so with the GUI, which is pretty straight forward or use the terminal.

To get the active firewall zone

sudo firewall-cmd --get-default-zone

Assuming you are only using the default zone, Public (adjust based on

sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=5000-5003/tcp
sudo systemctl restart firewalld

If you are not running Firewalld you will have to adjust for your particular firewall.

The final step is to activate the VNC Server.

Client Device

The client device in my case is my HP Touchpad. The client software I set up that worked best from the F-Droid store was AndroidVNC. If you have one that you prefer, by all means, use that instead.

This is the easy part. Here, set the Connection Nickname, Address and Port. I did set it to the 24-bit color but would get better speed with a lower color depth but not so much as to make the the display much faster, it does, however, make the display much more annoying to look at.

Once you command the client to make the connection, and everything else is done correctly, the client will connect to the host and you will have a second, albeit a bit sluggish 2nd monitor to use for any low frame-rate functions.

I use this for displaying PDFs, web pages like wikis, chat clients or anything else that doesn’t require high frame rate. This is often useful when I am doing different admin types of tasks that require me to look at published documents and I am away from my SuperCubicle (home office). It is very, very handy.

Final thoughts

This is a great little project for making old tablets, such as my HP Touchpad, even more useful. It just doesn’t take much processing power by the client device to peer into a VNC host.

Issues I have noticed. On some Wi-Fi networks, I am not able to make the connection between the devices. I’m sure either ports or some sort of walking is happening that is preventing me from making the connection.

When you set up your VNC client on the tablet or whatever, you have to be sure that you take into account loss of screen real-estate due to whatever the client does on the boarders. Optionally, find a way to turn off the pointer on the client. If you don’t, you get weird flickering. Sometimes, the client or host will just disconnect. I have not yet tracked down the root cause of the problem but it doesn’t happen frequently enough for me to do anything about it.

Full motion video is not actually possible with this. I wouldn’t recommend watching any YouTube videos but more static web pages or using it for chat clients like IRC, Telegram, Discord, or the like is perfectly usable.

How often will I use this? Only when I have to and that is at least monthly. There are a few issues with the setup but it is perfectly usable with just a bit of fiddling. Hopefully this will continue to get attention and work done by the developer.

Reference

VirtScreen on GitHub.com
Use Your Tablet as a Monitor with VirtScreen on discourse.bigdaddylinux.com
HP TouchPad in 2018 on CubicleNate.com

Debian 10 | Review from an openSUSE User

Debian review title

I have used Debian for years on and off… probably more off than on… but when I had some odd hardware to install Linux, Debian is always the go to distribution. In my mind, Debian is known for old packages and a crusty installer. For many applications, old packages are fine and a crusty installer is not a big deal, after all, my early Linux experience did include installing Debian Linux on HP PA RISC systems. It wasn’t a cake walk but it wasn’t exactly difficult. The Debian installer works well if you are willing to read what is on the screen.

This is my biased review of Debian 10 from an extremely entrenched openSUSE user. I am perfectly happy where I am and have no intention on switching to any other distribution. I will be looking at the KDE Plasma Desktop on Debian and comparing it to my regular home of the KDE Plasma Desktop on openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The bottom line, up front, Debian is great. It is a pure and sterile experience, not much emphasis is put onto the look and feel but it is very apparent that they put their effort into the technical underpinnings. If I had to choose between an artistic piece or a technically sound technology, I will go for the technical merits and do the last mile of polish to satisfy my needs. I can highly recommend Debian to any intermediate user.

Installation

Installation was pretty straight forward. I went with the graphical installation tool and being familiar with the text installer, this was much the same but with more “modern” graphics.

The installer will start off by asking you to select a language and your country.

Next you need to select the keyboard map. The installer will then load components. This takes just a bit.

Next you will set the host name and the domain name. These are each on different screens. I think they could have consolidated this to one screen but that is just my opinion.

Your first “account stop” is setting up the root password with a well written instruction and precautions about setting up the root user. You are also notified that if you leave the password empty, the root account will be disabled and the initial user will be given the power to become root using the sudo command.

Debian 10 8 Installation

You will then be prompted for a Full Name followed by the Username. This too could have probably been put on a single screen but stepping through one at a time has its merits.

After you enter your password for your user account, you’ll be prompted to set the timezone of the system clock.

The partition setup of the system will be next, for the purposes of this installation, I chose the guided – use entire disk and the virtual disk presented itself on the next screen.

For the Partition disks setting, I chose the option recommended for new users and that is all files in one partition. This is seemingly more and more common now. Next you are given a breakdown of the automatic partition screen and a final sanity check before committing the changes to disk.

Base system will install. When complete, you will then be asked if there is any other CD or DVD media you want the system to scan for additional media. In this case, I do not have such a thing and I find it interesting that this is even an option. I am struggling a bit to find the use case for it but I am sure there is one.

The package manager will need to be configured. In order to pull the packages from a mirror closer to you, you are asked to choose a country. Then you are given an option of mirrors. I chose the default highlighted deb.debian.org. I didn’t have to configure an http proxy so I left that blank.

After the package manager configures apt, you will be asked if you want to supply the developers with statistics about your system. This will run once a week and send the packages to the distribution developers. If you are okay with that, select yes.

The options you are given for desktop environment is pretty fantastic. You can even choose no desktop environment! Right out of the gate you can choose between GNOME, Xfce, KDE Plasma, MATE, LXDE and LXQt. Interestingly, they are not presented in alphabetical order. It actually baffles me a bit why GNOME would be at the top when clearly, the best desktop is KDE Plasma.

The next step is to install the GRUB bootloader on the drive. Should you select, Yes you will be given a list of drives or to enter a device manually.

GRUB is the last step, you will be notified that the installation is complete and you can boot into your freshly installed system, which, undoubtedly will have the new car smell.

First Run and Impressions

The GRUB bootloader looked pretty typical an I saw my “GNU/Linux” option sitting right there so a quick tap of the Enter key began the loading of the operating system. I was unpleasantly surprised by the login / greeter… blah, not sure what display manager that is but, blah. It certainly does not go well with a Plasma Desktop.

I shouldn’t complain, it does the job, it just looks… Xfce…

The splash screen was the default Plasma splash and you are presented with a vanilla KDE Plasma 5 Desktop with the not-so-fantastic Application Launcher. That is easily enough fixed.

The default theme is the Breeze So-bright-it-burns-your-retina but that is also easily fixed with the more comfortable Breeze Dark theme. I also played around with some other settings, the region settings is all wrong for my preference and I wanted to see how the Info Center presented the operating system. It didn’t pull a Debian Logo, not a big deal. I also went there to check the Plasma version 5.14.5. Just a bit older but not a big deal. Still better than not having Plasma.

I was interested in checking out the default applications in Debian. It was pretty sparse, but had the basics. I would call it a pretty lean installation. Thankfully, by default this Plasma installation does have the GTK widget style module installed. Not sure if it is even an option to not install but I do remember, once upon a time, that this was not an automatic thing.

Firefox, after tweaking the GTK theme, looked great, and looked great going into the Big Daddy Linux discourse page. No complaints there.

Debian 10 45

Here is a little bonus with the Debian KDE Plasma, Discover works and works very well. I do believe it is the best Discover experience I have ever had. I was not able to find Discord but Telegram was there.

I wanted to check to see if I could install Kdenlive and indeed it was available. It was version 18.12.3, so a bit behind but seemingly worked well enough. I was just surprised it was even available. Should I be surprised?

I truly enjoyed using Plasma on Debian. It far exceeded my expectations and although I don’t intend on moving from my happy place called openSUSE, this was a great place to visit.

What I Like

Pure experience, no distribution specific influence almost in a kind of sterile hospital feel. That might sound like a negative but having no “cruft” as it were does have its merits.

Discover works great in Debian 10. Not that this should be on my top “what I like” list but it is great to see Discover working and working well.

The package selection in Debian is pretty robust. If it is not in the repository, getting the package elsewhere is almost a trivial process. Everyone builds a deb package.

What I Don’t Like

System configuration tools are a bit light. Being used to having a tool like YaST, navigating Debian can be a bit daunting. If you have experience with Linux and you know what tools you need this is not a problem

The Default Display Manager was almost jarring as I was expecting the wonderfully polished, silky smooth SDDM as my greeter. I know that I can​ change this but at this stage, I am just a bit too lazy to do so.

What I’m Not Sure About

There is this option to send the developers statistics from your system. This Debian popularity contest package statistics is run on a weekly basis and sent up, I don’t know how I feel about it running weekly. I like giving developers information but I am just unsure about the frequency.

Final Thoughts

Some distributions focus on technical merit, others on creating a visual experience. Debian is very much a technical merits distribution. You can polish it up to your own personal tastes, and frankly, this is what I am used to. The other reality is, Plasma doesn’t need much work to make look good, Breeze Dark and it looks great.

Debian popularity contest package statistics is a bit dubious to me but I am glad it is there… I think… The jury is still out on that one.

Overall, Debian is a fantastically stable, but sterile experience. I see this is a great place to go to support multiple hardware platforms and something you can count on. I highly recommend dipping your toes in Debian.

Reference

Debian for PA RISC
Get Debian
BigDaddyLinux Live Stream Debian 10 Distro Challenge
BigDaddyLinux Debian 10 Distro Challenge Discussion

SimpleScreenRecorder on openSUSE

A fine tool for which I recently had some use is this very capable application called SimpleScreenRecorder. I used it to create a couple simple videos mostly to see how well it works but mostly for the purpose of creating something useful as a reference.

To install it on openSUSE use the one-click method here:

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

Or, my preferred method, in the terminal, enter:

sudo zypper in simplescreenrecorder

Fantastically, it is built using the Qt toolkit so it looks much better in the KDE Plasma Desktop Environment.

I have used it for a couple videos and have plans for more, mostly as notes to myself but in video form.

Basic Usage

After installing the software, it will sit in the multimedia subsection on the menu. It can be called up in a search as well, at least on Plasma.

SimpleScreenRecorder 1

Select Continue

Next you are presented with your Input Settings. You can create different profiles for different purposes. You can also select if you want to record all the screens, a single screen, a fixed rectaning, follow the cursor or to record OpenGL. I have only used the options to record the entire single screen or a fixed rectangle.

SimpleScreenRecorder 2

You can choose to record the cursor or not and whether or not you want Audio. I have only used PulseAudio and it has seemingly worked just fine.

When you Continue, you will have to select the Output Profile or create your own, set the file name, the video and audio codecs settings. The settings pictured below has worked quite well for me in terms of quality but are a bit excessive in the memory usage.

 

SimpleScreenRecorder 3

After all that is set, you can start recording at anytime. It is also not a bad idea to Start the preview if you want to make sure it looks right before beginning the recording. The information frame on the left side of the window is quite nice. It tells you all kinds of useful information about the process. What is especially good to know is the file size. Depending on your available system resources, this could become somewhat of a concern.

SimpleScreenRecorder 4

Once you have completed the recording, hit Stop Recording along the top of the window and Save Recording if you believe you are satisfied with the results.

And that is it!

How I’ve Used It

I wanted to demonstrate how to set up switching from left-to-right typing to right-to-left typing on LibreOffice

I also did a quick little video just to play with SimpleScreenRecorder and showing how to turn on and off tooltips within KDE Plasma 5.16. I did edit both of these videos with Kdenlive for practice because someday, someday, I might get good at it.

Final Thoughts

SimpleScreenRecorder is a fantastic example of easy to use software to create simple videos for any number of things. This is great for demonstrating how you accomplish something on the desktop, sometimes video is the best way to present it. This is a fine example of easy to use open source and free software that has an incredible value.

Since I am able to install this application from the official repository with my favorite Linux distribution openSUSE Tumbleweed, it is just another straw on my pile of reasons I use it. Additionally, it requires no fancy configuration to get going, there is nothing peculiar about running it and it has been seemingly quite reliable. I have even thought of other fantastic uses besides providing quick little help videos and really, the limits of this application are at the limits of your imagination with this tool.

openSUSE Linux and all it’s fantastic tools add just a bit of happiness to my life, and I am so incredibly grateful to everyone that has had even the smallest part in making this possible.

References

SimpleScreenRecorder from software.opensuse.org
SimpleScreenRecorder Home Page

OpenMandriva | Review from an openSUSE User

OpenMandriva review title

My beginnings of using Linux started in 2002 on Mandrake Linux. I transitioned to full time Linux for my home computer in November of 2003 with Mandrake Linux on a Sony Vaio Laptop. This was my first serious attempt and getting the Winmodem going was… challenging. This is where I really learned to start documenting how I did things because nothing seemed as simple and straight forward as they were on the Amiga platform. This Sony didn’t last long as it did have a hardware failure, twice so I purchased a Dell 5100. It had the same Winmodem troubles but was quite solvable.

This is my biased review of OpenMandriva as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user using Plasma Desktop that once used Mandriva as a daily driver. I have a soft spot for Mandriva and consequently OpenMandriva, just on name sake.

To give you the option to bail here, I like OpenMandriva and think it’s a great distribution to use. At no point did I have a bad experience when installing and using it and would have no problem recommending it to anyone.

Installation

Good bad or otherwise, OpenMandriva will boot to a live media before you are able to install it. I can see the benefit of this but this is not my preference. Regardless, this is your only option. The installation system is the Calemares Universal Installation Framework to install the operating system to the computer, or in this case, a Virtual Machine (VM).

The installation is straight forward. You start out by providing your Language and Location details. I haven’t noted this before but just clicking near where you live will select the correct time zone so the drop down is not really necessary but I don’t think it would be a good idea to remove that feature.

Next, select your keyboard layout. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to use a Dvorak keyboard… someday perhaps. The partition setup on this VM was to use the entire Virtual Disk so I selected Erase Disk. If I were going too use Manual partitioning, I would have likely set a separate root and home partition. For the purpose of this level of testing, it was not necessary to set it up for long term use.

You will then be required to enter your user information, select whether or not you want to log in automatically and if you want Root (Administrator user) to have a separate password.

The summary gives a nice brief look at the system changes.

You are given one final sanity check and when you commit, the installer goes through the rolling slideshow about OpenMandriva and upon completion will reboot the system.

Overall, the Installation process is painless. It should be noted, that I don’t use any proprietary drivers on most of my systems so I have no problems with OpenMandriva.

First Run and Impressions

The first run of OpenMandriva is a pleasant experience. It is a great implementation of the KDE Plasma desktop. The login splash screen presents itself in a kind of springtime freshness to it. Not that flowers are my preference on my desktop but most certainly around my home, especially in the spring and early summer is very welcoming.

OpenMandriva 22

I really appreciate the OpenMandriva Welcome screen. It gives a great introduction to the project. It is 100% community driven, uses KDE Plasma by default and what I find interesting is the Automated Build Farm.

The OpenMandriva Control center is a nice callback to the days of Mandriva. This has been at least, on the surface, a visual rewrite of the original control center. It has a more “welcome mat” feel to it. Rather than having the purpose hidden away, it is presented very clearly what the OpenMandriva Control Center is.

OpenMandriva 30

The package manager for OpenMandriva was familiar yet a bit different from what I remember during my Mandriva days. It seemed to function similarly and presented the necessary information for doing what needed to be done.

The update application, dnfdragora-updater, was a bit of a departure from what I was expecting on the desktop. openSUSE uses the KDE Plasma native Software Updates tool, which is what I was expecting for OpenMandriva. I really don’t care what tool they use as long as it works. My issue here was that this just opened up the Software Manager from the Control Center and in order to do the updates, you have to Select all packages and select Apply to begin the updates. I can see some benefits to tweaking installation applications as they come in but on the other side this is a somewhat tedious addition to the update process. The jury is out on this one for me. I see the utility in it, I just don’t think it is what I am used to.

For additional software availability, I selected the OpenMandriva repo-picker and added the 64-bit repositories and later, the 32-bit repositories because, I wanted to see if there were more options of applications to install.

Unfortunately, I was not able to install Discord or Telegram one was not available for installation and the other had some dependencies.

The default multimedia applications are a real nice mix and also highlights what is of project importance to the OpenMandriva community. Installed by default are Kdenlive, a very fine professional level video editor, Kwave Sound Editor and Simple Screen Recorder. I can’t recall any other distros that install that by default but my memory can be lacking.

I played around with OpenMandriva for quite some time. Not all of the tools, time in a day and week makes that somewhat prohibitive but I like a lot of what I saw. Unfortunately I was not able to install Telegram for the Desktop as there was a missing dependency.

Overall, I like what I see and I could be very comfortable here.

What I Like

OpenMandriva has a simple installer that is used by many distributions called Calemares. It works well on many distributions and this is no exception. A quick setup and off to the OpenMandriva races you go.

The OpenMandriva Welcome Screen and introduction is simply fantastic. I think all distributions should have something like this as a part of the on-boarding process into the project. It could be argued that there is almost too much information but in some ways, more is better.

The OpenMandriva Control Center is a fantastic centralized configuration system for the operating system. Like the Mandriva Control Center before it and not far off from the power of YaST, these Control Center tools are essentially a requirement for me to consider a Linux Distribution.

What I Don’t Like

The software selection is not as large as many other distributions but with enough effort, I could get what I want. There is the Automated Build Farm that would allow me to build whatever applications I see as necessary.

The initial layout of the desktop has a large taskbar on the bottom. Since it is Plasma, it is easily modified. The color theme of OpenMandriva is not a more comfortable dark theme. This is of course also easily adjusted.

It looks like at some point, OpenMandriva went from URPMI as the package manager to DNF. I realize that URPMI is in a kind of maintenance mode at this point and isn’t getting any more love. I would have preferred OpenMandriva had switched to using Zypper instead of DNF as I think Zypper is more mature and DNF doesn’t quite yet have feature parity with YUM. I must also say that DNF is great, I just happen to think Zypper is greater.

Final Thoughts

OpenMandriva is a fine Linux distribution with a fantastic history and strong roots. It is a very approachable distribution that feels well polished. I am will continue to watch this distribution with great interest and hope that they continue to progress and develop the distribution. The community has done a fine job up to this point.

I am not exactly sure where OpenMandriva sits in the spectrum of Linux Distributions. I don’t know who their target audience is. I am not sure if they are going after the “new to Linux” users or the more advanced users looking for something else.

I am very happy with openSUSE, the community and the supporting technology. If all of that were to disappear on me, OpenMandriva looks like a very welcoming and comfortable home for my personal computing life.

I would highly recommend giving OpenMandriva a spin. Check out the tools see how they work for you. It has a fine implementation of Plasma and the project very much appears focused. I truly wish this project great success.

References

OpenMandriva Home

OpenMandriva Automated Build Farm

Calamares Project

 

Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU/KVM on openSUSE Tumbleweed

One of the beauties of a rolling distribution is that sometimes you are forced to use a new piece of software… My regular Virtual Machine application, VirtualBox was non-functional for a few days due to a kernel update and some sort of mismatch with the kernel driver or something… The positive is, I got to know a new Virtual Machine Application, Libvirt with QEMU/KVM. Quite honestly, I am not even sure what to call the application stack. The application is virt-manager which is libvirt and the application title bar is Virtual Machine Manager so maybe it goes by them all or I can’t make heads or tails out of the name.

Installation

I found I had to install a few things to make this work.

sudo zypper install libvirt qemu virt-manager libvirt-daemon-driver-qemu

Setup

Set up my first virtual machine. After doing a little reading and digging to figure out what was the best solution for me in my use case, which is, on a desktop testing other distributions or software in a virtual machine. This is how I set it up.

Initially, you have to Add a connection. Depending on how your system is out of the gate, or if you canceled this operation. Here is how you get back to it.

File > Add Connection…

Virt-Manager-01-Add Connection

For my purposes, I am using the QEMU/KVM user session as the Hypervisor. I also selected the Autoconnect tick box to ensure that when I started Virt-Manager, it would make this connection.

Next step is to create a new virtual machine. Since I am installing from an ISO, I selected the first option. If you are running a 32 bit version of Linux, you can select that architecture instead. Although I have not played with this as much, my understanding is you can use other CPU architectures here as well.

Virt-Manager-02-New VM

Unless you have already selected the media, it is at this point you can Browse to select the ISO you have downloaded.

Virt-Manager-03-New VM

Select the Brows Local button at the bottom of this window to search your file system for the ISO of choice.

Virt-Manager-04-ISO

The application will generally automatically detect the distribution, if it is not detecting it you can manually search or find a “similar” upstream project.

Virt-Manager-05-ISO

Next step is to set the memory and CPU. I elected to use two CPU cores.

Virt-Manager-06-Memory and CPU

The next step is to either select or create a disk image. In this case, I am using the default Create a disk image for the virtual machine of 32 GiB. It should be noted. Unlike VirtualBox, these disk images are static allocations for the size you set. They do not dynamically size based on the amount of used space on the virtual disk.

Virt-Manager-07-Storage Volume

The final step you are ready to begin the installation. Modify the name, customize the configuration and change the network selection if you see fit. I just use the Usermode networking. For my purposes this works fine.

Virt-Manager-08-Summary

Upon selecting finish, a new window will open and the ISO you selected should boot up. Since openSUSE booted just fine, any good operating system will work similarly.

Virt-Manager-08-GRUB Boot

Configuration

When you open but not begin running a Virtual Machine you have the ability to make modifications to the Virtual Machine Hardware. As compared to VirtualBox, it feels like you have a lot more control and also a lot more ways to have the VM misconfigured and not behave as you would like. Your mileage my vary.

 

Should you want to make changes to the number of CPUs, Memory or any of the graphics and network settings can be adjusted to suit your needs. I did not alter much of anything here. In order to make the video adjust as I would like in Plasma, I set the Display Spice type to Spice server and Video model should be set to QXL.

 

This will allow me to take full advantage of whatever screen real estate I have available.

Virt-Manager-16-Adjusting Plasma for monitor.png

This is also the part of the post you can point and laugh at my old, non-high-DPI screens to which I will respond, “my old hardware still works, thank you very much.”

What I Like

Qemu with Libvirt just feels much faster than Virtualbox. It has a kind of raw, running on “bare metal” feel as opposed to that slightly sluggish virtualized feel to which I am more accustomed. I do appreciate this performance enhancement. I do have to preface that this is not the experience I get from all desktop environments but Plasma does run quite well.

The interface, although initially a bit overwhelming, is pretty great. I am not going to go into detail on all the features as most of the time, the defaults work well for my use cases.

I don’t have any issues with any updates that roll down breaking this utility. I am not completely sure of the technical reasons as to why but it seems as though this project is less affected by updates to the Linux Kernel.

What I Don’t Like

Virtual Manager is a GTK application so it is not as nice looking as the Virtualbox Qt, although at the time of writing this, I see there is a project on Github called qt-virt-manager.

There isn’t an option to have a dynamically resizing disk so I have to be more careful with the number of disk images I keep on my primary drive in my /home directory. Thankfully a little bit of symbolic linking to a 3rd, removable, drive and all the qcow2 files are available. It is a bit of extra work but worth it for the reliability and increased performance Virtual Machine Manger provides.

The name of this application stack is a bit confusing. I don’t really know what to call it. I learned of it as Libvirt, libvirt is the name of the directory that houses my virtual machine drives (~/.local/share/libvirt). Just knowing Libvirt didn’t answer how to get it going as it wasn’t called that in the repositories so a bit of searching and reading documentation I was able to get it all together in my head and take some notes. So, I think the confusing name and the barrier to entry did make it a bit challenging but I appreciated the journey to get me to this point.

Final Thoughts

Virtual Machine Manager is a great, reliable tool that appears unaffected by changes of the affects of a rolling distribution. It is, in some ways, a bit more difficult to set up, but once you understand that the “Add Connection” portion and set up the QEMU/KVM user session, the simplest Hypervisor. You are good to go. There is so much more you can do with Libvirt and it’s components. I am only barely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Although the disk allocation is not as convenient in Virtual Machine Manager, it is easy enough to manage using additional storage and it also keeps me from allowing too many unused machines from littering my computer.

Ultimately, this won’t keep me from using Virtualbox but it does give me another tool to play around with and try stuff out. I am very appreciative of everyone involved in making this tool reliable and easily used for the average Linux user. I am especially grateful that this application stack is more tolerant to the rolling release model that is Tumbleweed.

Reference

Virt-Manager on openSUSE Software

Qt Virt-Manager on Github

KVM/QEMU hypervisor driver