CubicleNate Noodlings | Episode 02 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

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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

Sabayon Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Sabayon review title.png

In my quest to further cement that openSUSE is the greatest Linux distribution ever, I have kicked the tires of yet another Linux Distribution, Sabayon. What Surprised me about this distribution was that it was Gentoo based yet installed very quickly, performed its updates quickly and was configured pretty decently out of the box. I could use this just about as easily as any other distribution.

This was as part of a “Distro Hopping Challenge” with the BigDaddyLinux Community.  Here is my somewhat heavily biased review of Sabayon Linux from a deeply entrenched openSUSE Tumbleweed User.

Installation

Right from the beginning I was happy to see that you could install Sabayon from the initial boot. I find it to be an irritating extra step to go into a live session before starting an installation. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Sabayon-01-boot install

The installation of Sabayon was surprisingly easy. Not at all what I expected. I believe it is the same installer that GeckoLinux as well as several others use which is quick and easy to use. Not my favorite installer but quite possibly my #2 in all the installers I have used.

After a nice little greeting, you are asked for your location. Nothing complex here but I did wonder if it is picking up on my actual time zone or if it is just defaulted to “New York”. If someone knows, feel free to leave a comment.

The default keyboard selection was also correct for me and I chose to use the entire disk for partitioning. More on the default partition later.

Here you enter your username, password and machine name, which I must say, I do like how easy it is to name the machine, it’s not buried in some other layers of options, it’s easy and accessible. You are also given the option to have a different password for the “administrator account”. I would call it “root account” but that’s me.

You are given a nice brief (maybe too brief?) summary of your installation. This is your last chance at bailing out.

The installation was not nearly as slow as I was expecting for something Gentoo. That leads me to believe that it was not compiled on the fly but had already been pre-compiled for your convenience. That makes me think… what makes this flavor of Gentoo unique compared to just running Arch or openSUSE Tumbleweed.

First Run

From Grub to Login screen was incredibly fast. I wasn’t paying close attention to how long it took but it was within the time it took me to restore my Kontact window and check my calendar. So, pretty darn fast.

The default wallpaper is not really my preference. It’s too… warm but it isn’t unpleasant by any means. I would likely find an alternative wallpaper if I were to stay on Sabayon.

The Greeting Window to welcome you to Sabayon was pretty fantastic. I think this should be the standard in all distributions. This will get you where you need to go in short order for getting help or helping the project. Well done.

I did find that I needed to change the style of the application menu. The default Application Launcher is acceptable but not my favorite. I find the alternative Application Menu a better alternative and if I were in charge of the project, I would make it my default. I think it makes for a better Plasma experience.

Speaking of defaults, I would also make the default theme Breeze Dark. Default Breeze is just not cool looking. I suppose if you like the light colored theme, fly that flag and go with it but the dark just looks way better and does a better job of exemplifying the slick nature of Plasma.

I looked at the Tomahawk media player to see if it respected the dark theme but it did not. That would be a deal breaker if I couldn’t tweak this. I didn’t dig into as I wasn’t interested in adding media to this machine. It is a nice looking interface… outside of that bright white thing it has going on.

Another “attaboy” goes to the developers in enabling the firewall by default. I think it is such a poor decision to not have a firewall enabled by default. Sadly, every Ubuntu distribution leaves it disabled by default. If you are only using your computer behind your home router, maybe it is not a big deal but security in layers is never bad. Also, I do use my computer outside of my home and I would venture to guess so do many others. Sabayon does its users a great service in not only enabling a firewall by default but also providing an easy to use firewall for the unfamiliar.

Sabayon-20-Firewall

I wish more distributions had a distribution specific menu to encourage you to get involved in the project. The developers at Sabayon have a menu item, “Report Bugs” which is nothing more than a link to their Bugzilla page but still a nice feature.

The update tool was pretty fantastic. It actually might be my favorite update tool I have ever seen. Nothing against any other distribution but this should be the standard. I enjoy the light-hearted interactions.

“Repositories updated Successfully” with a single response of “Ok, thanks”

“There are 89 updates, What to do?” with a response of “Update”, “Show”, “Ignore”, “Srsly, ignore!” not sure the difference between “Ignore” and “Srsly, ignore!” but it did make me smile.

“There are 4 notices from repositories.” with the options, “Let me see”, “Stop annoying me” and “Close”.

I do like the embedded terminal display in the update utility. Much like the MX Linux update tool. This is a very welcomed feature that other distribution GUI update tools should have by default.

What I Like

Number one, the firewall is enabled by default. That is a huge win in my book. Since most of my systems are mobile, I do expose my computer to the scary internet on public wifi services. No software is perfect and that extra layer of protection should be enabled by default on all machines.

Having a Sabayon sub-menu to get access help features and bug reporting and getting involved is another fine tweak to the distribution. Since Sabayon is not like many other distributions, having those resources readily available is fantastic.

The fast boot time is great to see. Not that there are distributions that are painfully slow anymore but it is nice to see that this distribution is fast, crisp and very usable.

Maybe my favorite feature of Sabayon is the verbose Update Tool. It is a bit tongue-and-cheek, which reminds me of Linux of old and made my time using it with a perpetual grin.

What I Don’t Like

I started to get multiple welcome screen windows upon rebooting the machine. Nothing terrible just slightly annoying. I think it had to do with not closing the Welcome screen when I logged out / rebooted. Not a huge deal or worth a bug report.

Not a fan of the single partition for root and /home. This is very common and I wasn’t given a default, multi-partition option on the installer. I could have partitioned it manually so that is on me. No matter the arguments I hear form anyone, multiple partitions will always be the safer and more flexible option.

Final Thoughts

Sabayon is a well done distribution, no matter the underlying technology. In this case, Gentoo but the implementation of Plasma was done so well, I may not have even noticed it was Gentoo. If I were not so entrenched with openSUSE, this would be a serious contender for a daily driver.

If you want to try Gentoo but don’t want spend time compiling it, this would be a great way to go. It is very well done and worth giving a spin.

Further Reading

Sabayon Linux Home Page

BigDaddyLinux.com

MX Linux | Review from an openSUSE User

Dolphin | My File Manager of Choice on openSUSE

Dolphin File Manager

Managing files is nothing new for me. Since my days on the Amiga Workbench of the early 90s, I have developed a preference for how I like to manage my files. My first real exposure to what I think is a fantastic file manager was “Midnight Commander” to which a mode of that was available using Konqueror in the KDE 3 days. It might have been there in KDE 4, I can’t recall because it was about that time KDE introduced the best file manager I have ever used. Dolphin.

This is my rather biased view on why I think Dolphin is the best file manager available. To give you an opportunity to bail out of this blathering here, I’ll sum it up in saying, this, Dolphin is the best file manager based on its flexibility, speed and KIO plugin functionality that allows me to manage files on remote machines with little effort. It just does its job in a fantastically reliable, smooth and intuitive manner that I really appreciate. It only lacks one function that does require me to go back to Konqueror from time to time.

I had originally planned to be a part of the discussion concerning File Managers on the BigDaddyLinux Live Show but was not able to participate. You can watch the discussion here.

Scope of this Blathering

I am not going to compare Dolphin to another file manager. This is not a persuasion to use Dolphin in any way. It is merely highlighting the features I use regularly and greatly appreciate. Ultimately, I believe you have to use what works best for you and your situation.

Briefly About Dolphin

Dolphin is the default file manager in KDE Plasma. It is simple and easy to use for basic functions that any user with even a limited understanding in file management can understand. The file manager’s left-side pane gives you quick access to places you visit, either local or remote at a click away. It contains, search functions using Baloo File Indexer that allows for very rapid locating of files. Another great feature is the ability to easily find recently saved items as well.

The main portion of the interface is where you interact with the files themselves with some useful hot-spots for selecting multiple files for those that prefer the single-click to open files and folders.

On the right, there is an optional panel that gives you details about the current folder you are in or whatever file(s) you have selected with even the option to add comments to things. If you want to preview some media, selecting the file and pressing play will in that pane provides that feature as well.

Everything in Dolphin can be customized to match your particular preference. There are limitations, of course but I don’t seem to bump into those too much.

Top Five Fantastic Features

1. The Interface

The look of Dolphin, especially with the Dark Theme I have chosen just looks good. It is clean and feels polished. It gives me everything I need to navigate quickly to whatever location I need to go to get what I want. As briefly described. The Places and Information side panes on either side can be easily turned on and off by pressing F9 or F11, respectively. F10 to create a new folder and several others I use. Function Keys are well utilized with this file manager and that makes for a pleasant and efficient user experience. Dolphin has tabs, tabs are just fantastic and when I was first exposed to Tabs in Konqueror in 2003, there was no going back to separate windows for each file location. It is such a fantastically clean way to keep your fingers on multiple locations.

Dolphin-01

2. Split Windows.

With a Simple strike of the F3 key, you cRather than open another Dolphin Window, there is an option to split the view into two views. This makes for easy comparison of files and folders within different directories and moving them around accordingly. I often have a Tab or two open that has the window split for easy management of files. This is a bit of a callback to the Midnight Commander days of old.

Dolphin-02-Split

3. Filter Bar

This is a feature I use often when I have those directories that have a lot of files in it and reading through each of them would take too long. To activate this feature, Alt+I or Control > Tools > Show Filter bar if you would prefer to click your way there. One such way I use this is to search through my media folders for specific artists of songs or movie title. I also use this to sort though my camera files for specific dates. This feature has spoiled me and I can no longer consider any file manager that doesn’t have this feature.

Dolphin-05-Filter

4. Search Function

This is heavily tied into the KDE Plasma file indexing agent and I don’t actually know if it works without it activated but the splendid feature is a great way to look for anything sitting in your file system. I have used this to locate old records of a specific title successfully countless times. I can’t say enough good things about file searching in Dolphin coupled with Plasma.

Dolphin-04-Search

5. Terminal

Last, but certainly not least is the ability to open up a terminal with a quick reach to F4 at the same file location of which you are working. To exemplify this feature, if I am in my CubicleNate directory the terminal opens to ~/Documents/CubicleNate and I can do whatever functions, in the terminal from my working directory. Also note, if I jump to another tab or the adjacent split window. The terminal jumps to that directory. It is hugely useful and a welcome feature. It makes the terminal even more accessible and another tool readily available to aid you in making your work more efficient.

Dolphin-03-Split with Terminal

Final Thoughts

Dolphin is a great file manager that works so well, I am not sure where they can go from here… except for one small feature that keeps me going back to Konqueror, File Size View. It is a graphical view of the working directory that visually shows the size of each file or folder recursively. This is a great way to visually see what is consuming your file system (I almost wrote hard drive). This is not a daily usage feature but it is something I go to from time to time to lean out some of my project directories. I can easily find backups or repeats of large backups of projects that can be weeded out.

I am not sure how well Dolphin would work on a GTK based system or if there are features in parity to what is available in Dolphin but I can say that Dolphin is my “killer app” when it comes to what drives my Desktop Choice. It is the best looking, feature rich file manager I have ever used. I wholeheartedly believe it should be the standard for which all file managers strive to propel Desktop Linux forward.

Further Reading

More about Dolphin from KDE.org

BigDaddyLinux Show on File Managers

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 on openSUSE Tumbleweed

There has been quite a lot of buzz in the news about the first stable release of Plasma in 2019, version 5.15.0, released on 12 February 2019. It came to openSUSE Tumbleweed a few days later and a few days after that, I started updating my various systems running Tumbleweed. I am not going to cover all the changes and improvements, there is plenty of that available to read. Instead, this is my experience with the upgrade process on the first three Tumbleweed machines.

My primary machine isn’t generally first to get the latest updates, because I am using it nearly all the time so I will begin the updates on other machines, incidentally, all of which are Dell. The first machine that I performed the updates is a Dell Latitude E6440. There isn’t a whole lot of software on this one as it’s primary focus is for educational related activities. There aren’t any community repositories on this machine so the update required no intervention at all. The next machine, a Dell Inspiron 20 3048, does do a lot for me but doesn’t have too many community maintained repositories. It too went without incident. Lastly, my primary machine, also a Dell Latitude E6440 but with more memory, storage and a dedicated AMD GPU.

This machine has quite a bit of software on it. I do try things out but I don’t always remove the applications or community maintained repositories. It took it as an opportunity to start trimming out some additional repositories, thankfully, zypper makes that process easy. My primary machine was trimmed down to 36 repositories. Then I performed the update.

sudo zypper dup

Zypper ran through, did its thing, asked me about a couple python packages an one package I installed that I already knew was “broken” by not having a dependency. After Zypper calculated everything out and I agreed to the update. Just as every other Tumbleweed update goes, this one proceeded without incident.

All three machines had but only one small issue. They didn’t want to leave Plasma to reboot, specifically, selecting “reboot” or “halt” and even “logout” did not actually perform those actions, Instead, I ran in terminal:

sudo systemctl reboot

There may be a better way of doing a reboot, if you are aware of such, please let me know. A few moments later, the machine started up without incident and what I may be most excited about is that, everything still, just works.

KDE Plasma Upgrade 5.15.0 KInfoCenter

I did receive one pleasant surprise, my Bluetooth keyboard, for the first time communicated that it was low on power instead of just going unresponsive. I was able to see a “10% Warning” pop up notification. I thought that was pretty slick. I have been enjoying the status and warnings with wireless Logitech devices for years but this was the first for Bluetooth. Very well done.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is ever perfect but my experience with using openSUSE Tumbleweed has been pretty fantastic for the last two years. I don’t have to worry about an update breaking my system or crossing my fingers when the operating system base iterates to a new version. Not a single piece of software has broken or had any regressions. The two applications I check for issues, Kdenlive and the Open Broadcaster Studio, continue to work just the same. I experienced zero appreciable downtime with this update which is another tribute to all those involved with openSUSE, KDE Plasma and ever other application so many graciously pour their energy into and permitting me the use of this finely engineered, fantastic distribution of Linux.

Further Reading

KDE Plasma 5.15.0 Announcement

Tumbleweed Snapshots News Announcement for 21 February 2019

Coherent Color Scheme Creation for Qt and GTK on openSUSE

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

Why take the time?

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

The Solution

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

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

KDE Plasma SystemSettings

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

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

KDE Plsama Color Scheme Customize.png

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

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

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

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

sudo zypper in gdk-pixbuf-devel

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

Oomox Color Theme Customizer

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

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

Gnome-Recipes openSUSE Breeze Dark

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Further Reading

openSUSE Linux | CubicleNate notes

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